See Rock City

See Rock City

Monday, September 8, 2008

Searcy, AR

White County Courthouse in downtown Searcy

Motto: Pride - Progress - Potential "The city where thousands live as millions wish they could."

Searcy (local pronunciation: SUR see) is the largest city and county seat of White County, Arkansas, United States. According to 2006 Census Bureau estimates, the population of the city is 20,663. It is the principal city of the Searcy, AR Micropolitan Statistical Area which encompasses all of White County. Like Searcy County, the city takes its name from Richard Searcy, a judge for the Superior Court of the Arkansas Territory.

Mike Beebe, Arkansas' current governor and former state Attorney General (2003-2007), lived and worked in Searcy several years, both in private law practice (1972-1982) and while representing the area in the Arkansas State Senate (1982-2002). His wife, Ginger, is a native of Searcy. The Beebe-Capps Expressway, a notable thoroughfare in Searcy, is named after Mike Beebe and his fellow lawmaker, John Paul Capps, both of whom engineered the funds and political willpower to complete its construction.

Searcy is the home of Harding University, a private college affiliated with the Churches of Christ and the state's largest private university. Harding College (its original name) moved to Searcy from Morrilton, Arkansas in 1934, having bought the campus of the defunct Galloway College, a Methodist college for women.

Regional ice cream producer and distributor Yarnell Ice Cream Co. has its headquarters in the city's downtown area.

Yarnell Ice Cream

Yarnell Ice Cream Company is the privately-owned and operated manufacturer of Yarnell's brand ice cream, frozen yogurt and sherbet products. Founded in 1932, the company's corporate headquarters are located along the east side of Spring Park in downtown Searcy, Arkansas, with 11 branch operations throughout three states. The company is also the only independent ice cream company in Arkansas, where it commands a large portion of the market share, competing against national and regional brands such as Texas-based Blue Bell Creameries. Yarnell has been called, "Searcy’s version of Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory" by local reporter Warren Watkins.


Yarnell Ice Cream

Yarnell Ice Cream Company manufacturing facility in Searcy (White County); 1934.

Ray Yarnell

Ray Yarnell, founder of Yarnell Ice Cream Company in Searcy (White County); circa 1960s.

From its origins in a bankrupt dairy purchased by Ray Yarnell, the company has evolved into a fourth-generation family-owned business. His son, Albert Yarnell, has worked at the factory in some capacity since its early days and watched his dad steer the company through pitfalls that devoured other businesses during the Depression era. Back then, Yarnell’s ice cream sandwiches were hand crafted and all ice cream deliveries were toted via four small delivery trucks and even a bicycle. By the end of its first year of business, Yarnell’s had an inventory of 333 gallons of the tasty ice cream. The cache of treats was valued at a grand total of $934.

Yarnell's Plant

Yarnell Ice Cream Company’s modern manufacturing facility in Searcy (White County).

After his college years and the end of World War II, Albert returned in 1948 and assumed the role of sales manager. Under his guidance, Yarnell’s expanded throughout the state and improved its mechanisms of production.

By the 1970’s Yarnell’s was grossing $1 million in sales.

In 1975, Rogers, Albert’s son, jumped aboard full time. The 50th anniversary celebration was held in 1982, upon which the unique gold rim was added to the company’s offerings. In 1995, Yarnell’s underwent a major expansion of its factory to keep up with the demand of its product.

Albert likes to bring up the fact that in 1948, there were approximately 48 ice cream companies competing with Yarnell’s in Arkansas. Seventy-five years later there are none.

According to The Daily Citizen (Searcy) newspaper, "Yarnell’s developed the first ice milk product in the industry in addition to creating the first fat-free, no sugar added ice cream" ("Downhome Goodness").

Today, Yarnell's offerings include premium and reduced-calorie ice creams, frozen yogurt, sherbet, and frozen novelty treats such as ice cream sandwiches and pre-packaged ice cream cones.

The Yarnell's service area includes the entire states of Arkansas and Mississippi, in addition to portions of Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, and Louisiana.


Ford Dealership

East Main Street, Marshall (Searcy County); circa 1916. Note early gasoline pump adjacent to store front.

According to Dr. Raymond Muncy's Searcy, Arkansas: A Frontier Town Grows up with America, Israel Moore, who had traveled west from Philadelphia, was in charge of laying out Searcy's original streets, and "he proceeded to name the major streets of Searcy for those of downtown Old Philadelphia near Independence Hall; Race, Arch, Market, Vine, Spring, and the tree-honoring streets of Cherry, Spruce, Locust and Pine." In 1957, Searcy named Moore Street after this 19th-century founder.

Perhaps coincidentally, Spring Street (along with downtown Searcy's Spring Park) also suggests some reference to earlier days of settlement in the Searcy area, when the community was known as White Sulphur Springs. As early as 1834, local springs with purported therapeutic properties initially drew visitors to the area, similar to the popular attraction to Hot Springs, Arkansas.

During the American Civil War, the Battle of Whitney's Lane was fought near Searcy, though the exact site is disputed. Searcy Landing, on the Little Red River, is the final resting place for some unfortunate Yankee soldiers.

On August 9, 1965, 53 contract workers were killed in a fire in the Titan missile silo outside of Searcy, in one the largest industrial accidents in US history. You may see the site in this video as it is in 2008 over 40 years after the disaster at this link

Despite losing many factory jobs, Searcy has recently experienced an economic revitalization, driven in large part by the leasing of much of the area's mineral rights by natural gas companies. Some residents, however, have noted concerns about the environmental impact of these extensive drilling projects (Hambrick "Natural State No More").

The Battle of Whitney's Lane was a small, but psychologically important, land battle of the American Civil War fought on May 19, 1862, in north-central Arkansas.

The Searcy Art Gallery

The Searcy Art Gallery is located in the Historic Benjamin Black House on the corner of East Race and Locust streets. The house was built in 1866 by Captain Benjamin (CSA) Clayton Black. The two-story pre-Civil War home was expanded in 1972. The Victorian house has a highly decorative veranda and was the 97th Arkansas residence to be placed on the National Register.

The Searcy Art Gallery hosts six major exhibits every year featuring local professional and aspiring artists.

Center on the Square

Performing Arts Center on the Square will nurture artists, technicians, administrators, volunteers, and audience members by providing opportunities for them to study and enjoy the art of theater. It will have a significant impact on the level of arts participation in the community by undertaking a wide range of artistic endeavors.

Searcy Summer Dinner Theatre

Searcy Summer Dinner Theatre is celebrating 26 years of community theatre! The program is underwritten by a generous gift from the estate of Mary Murphy and hosted by Harding University. SSDT is open to everyone to audition and attend. The program has sold out all performances for the past several years. A number of talented amateurs and professionals lend their talent and enthusiasm each season. Harding University students may take SSDT for credit and are often involved in major roles on and off stage.

The Evan Ulrey Performing Arts Center is a 15,200-square-foot facility that contains Harding University's theatre program and is the new home for Searcy Summer Dinner Theatre. The facility provides space for offices, tickets sales, dressing rooms, costume storage and set production. The center provides more options for flexible staging, such as theatre in the round. Additionally, each Searcy Summer Dinner Theatre production will now be performed six times: Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday of one weekend and Friday and Saturday of the following weekend.

Main Street Searcy

Main St. Get Down Logo

Get Down... Downtown!
A Main Street Searcy Festival
September 26-27, 2008

Main Street Searcy is proud to announce our upcoming Get Down...Downtown Festival! The event will be held September 26-27 in historic downtown Searcy.

We're inviting artists, performers, and vendors from across Arkansas to this fun-filled family festival. In addition to featuring our local talent, two of our bands are coming from Nashville and one group is coming from Branson.

For more information about Get Down...Downtown, please email or give me a call at (501)279-9007. We look forward to receiving your application. Don't forget your lawn chair.

The Courthouse in the Fall

Main Street Searcy

The Title Building

Main Street Searcy is a non-profit program that encourages development, historic preservation, community education, and revitalization of the downtown commercial area. The program also promotes and assists in city beautification projects and educates the public on the advantages of street planning. The results of these intertwining activities bring about an improved quality of life for the entire community. There are four charitable purposes served by Main Street Searcy’s activities:

a) Public education – Educational programs presented to civic groups, school groups, and the general public encourage the success of Main Street. Tours of historical districts are to be given and educational programs on the history of Searcy are presented. The culture and heritage of the Main Street District is being expressed through Main Street activities, publications, and programs.

b) Lessening the burdens of government – Main Street Searcy works with governmental programs to assist in street design, infrastructure improvements, and the utilization of public facilities.

c) Combating community deterioration – The development of rehabilitation efforts and education will enable business owners to occupy and improve physical structures, thus preventing further deterioration of properties.

d) Historic preservation – Searcy has several buildings on the National Register of Historic Places. The program seeks to maintain and educate the public on the prestigious history in the area.

Main Street

Over the past several years, downtown business districts have suffered due to urban sprawl and new commercial development. The Main Street Searcy program strives to assist the downtown district in attracting new businesses, preventing the financial loss of current businesses, and gaining community support through education and promotion. Main Street Searcy follows four guiding principles:

a) Design – Design enhances the physical appearance of the commercial district by rehabilitating historic buildings, encouraging new construction, developing sensitive design management, and long-term planning.

b) Organization – Organization builds consensus and cooperation among the many groups and individuals who have a role in the revitalization process.

c) Promotion – Promotion markets the traditional commercial district’s assets to customers, potential investors, new businesses, local citizens, and visitors.

d) Economic restructuring – Economic restructuring strengthens the district’s existing economic base while finding ways to expand to meet new opportunities and challenges from outlying development.

Harding Logo

Harding University

Here is information on Harding statistics, history and more. See the Mission below to get a clear picture of what Harding is all about.

Harding University is a private Christian institution of higher education committed to the tradition of the liberal arts and sciences. It is composed of the following academic units: a College of Arts and Humanities, a College of Bible and Religion, a College of Business Administration, a College of Education, a College of Nursing, a College of Sciences; and graduate programs in business, education, marriage and family therapy, physician assistant studies, and religion. The University serves a diverse, coeducational student body from across the United States and around the world, although the primary constituency for students and financial support is the fellowship of the churches of Christ. The board of trustees, the administration and the faculty believe that the freedom to pursue truth and high academic achievement is compatible with the Christian principles to which the University is committed. The faculty is dedicated to excellence in teaching, scholarship and service, and to their role as models of Christian living. The University community seeks to provide an environment that both supports students and challenges them to realize their full potential. Thus, Harding's mission is to provide a quality education that will lead to an understanding and philosophy of life consistent with Christian ideals. This involves the following goals:

Generally, the integration of faith, learning and living - developing the whole person through a commitment to Christ and to the Bible as the Word of God, an emphasis on lifelong intellectual growth, and the encouragement of Christian service and world missions through a servant-leadership lifestyle.

Specifically, the development of Christian scholarship - while acknowledging dependence on God, stressing Christian commitment to intellectual excellence through a strong liberal arts foundation and effective professional preparation.

The promotion of Christian ethics - creating an atmosphere that emphasizes integrity and purity of thought and action.

The development of lasting relationships - fostering personal and social relationships through interaction among faculty, staff and students; and stressing a lifelong commitment to marriage and the Christian family.

The promotion of wellness - emphasizing that the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit and that lifetime health habits contribute to a better quality of life.

The promotion of citizenship within a global perspective - developing a Christian understanding of and respect for other cultures through an emphasis on liberty and justice.

Campus of Character

Leading with Character


Building on qualities that had been promoted since its founding in 1923, Harding University was recognized as the first Campus of Character in October, 2002, by the International Association of Character Cities, an association of the Character Training Institute in Oklahoma City, Okla. This unique designation followed the passage of a resolution by the university's board of trustees, declaring that Harding would do everything possible to promote character on campus and beyond.

Harding is taking a leadership role with its students and community to demonstrate the importance of good character. By working to strengthen character in its students, the university intends to help students make good decisions throughout their lives.


Character is best taught by example. Leaders who model good character influence other to develop good character by recognizing, requiring and emphasizing proper attitudes, words and actions.

In its commitment to the Character First! model, Harding's student services personnel and resident assistants completed the curriculum and are taking leadership roles in the dormitories and on campus, working to resolve conflicts before they have a chance to surface in wrong actions. Their leadership guides others to focus on these character traits as they make daily decisions leading to a high quality of life.

Harding University

Character Enrichment

Students and teachers around the world have suggested many positive changes that result from emphasis of character in the educational environment. Foremost among them are improvement of comprehension and retention, which results in greater success in relationships and careers. Others include...

increased cooperation
improved school safety
fewer discipline problems
positive learning environment
higher academic achievement
heightened staff unity
improved family harmony


Harding began as a senior college in 1924, when two junior colleges, Arkansas Christian College and Harper College, merged their facilities and assets, adopted the new name of Harding College, and located on the campus of Arkansas Christian in Morrilton, Ark. Harper had been founded in 1915 in Harper, Kan., and Arkansas Christian had been chartered in 1919.

Upon completion of a study begun in May 1978, the board of trustees approved the study's recommended change of Harding to university status, and on Aug. 27, 1979, the name of the institution officially became Harding University.

The college was named in memory of James A. Harding, co-founder and first president of Nashville Bible School (now David Lipscomb University) in Nashville, Tenn. A preacher, teacher and Christian educator, James A. Harding inspired his co-workers and associates with an enthusiasm for Christian education that remains a significant tradition at Harding University.

With the merger J.N. Armstrong, who had served five years as Harper's president, became president of Harding College, and A.S. Croom, president of Arkansas Christian for two years, became vice president for business affairs. In 1934 Harding was moved to its present site in Searcy, Ark., on the campus of a former women's institution, Galloway College.

One of Harding's first graduates, George S. Benson, returned from mission work in China in 1936 to assume the presidency of his alma mater. The vigorous educator quickly directed the College out of deep indebtedness and launched it on a journey to financial stability, national recognition and academic accreditation. When Dr. Benson retired in 1965, his 29 years of tireless service were more than evident in a multimillion-dollar campus, regional accreditation, a strong faculty, and a continually growing student body. Dr. Benson died in December 1991 and is buried in Searcy.

Dr. Clifton L. Ganus Jr., a 1943 graduate, served as president from 1965 to 1987. A former history department chairman and vice president of the College, Dr. Ganus kept alive his predecessor's drive for excellence by leading a plan of campus improvement and expansion. During his administration, enrollment increased from 1,472 in the fall of 1965 to 2,767 in the fall of 1986. Seven major academic buildings, four large residence halls, and several married students' apartments were constructed. A $1 million addition to the Science Building was completed in 1984. Also, six academic buildings were renovated and/or enlarged. The nursing program, the social work program, the Mission Prepare program, the School of Biblical Studies (with programs in Searcy and in Nassau, the Bahamas), and the Harding University in Florence (Italy) program were developed during his administration. In Memphis, Tenn., the Graduate School of Religion experienced significant growth, received accreditation by the Southern Association, and added the Doctor of Ministry degree to its program. Upon his retirement, Dr. Ganus became Harding's first chancellor, and in his honor, the board of trustees named the physical education complex the Clifton L. Ganus Jr. Athletic Center.

Harding Campus

Scene on the campus of what is now Harding University in Searcy (White County); 1961.

Dr. David B. Burks became Harding's fourth president in May 1987. A 1965 graduate, he has been a member of the faculty since 1967 and previously served as dean of the School of Business. As professor of business and director of the American Studies program, Dr. Burks received the Distinguished Teacher Award in 1974 and 1986. A C.P.A. and consultant, he has written The Christian Alternative for Business and Strategic Management Simulation. He instituted the course in Christian Business Ethics, a requirement for all business majors. He holds a doctorate in administration of higher education from Florida State University. Under his leadership, the University has experienced record growth in enrollment and giving and, more importantly, continues to place significant emphasis on Christian servanthood.

Mike Beebe, Governor pf Arkansas

Michael Dale Beebe (born December 28, 1946) is the current Governor of Arkansas and a member of the Democratic Party. He is the first Democratic Governor of Arkansas since the governorship of Jim Guy Tucker (1992–1996).

Governor Beebe was born in Amagon, a small town in Jackson County, Arkansas. He was reared by his mother, a waitress, and never met his father. As a child, Mike and his family moved often. They lived in Detroit, St. Louis, Chicago, Houston and Alamogordo, New Mexico. They returned to Arkansas, and he graduated from Newport High School in 1964 .

Beebe received a bachelor of arts degree in political science from Arkansas State University in 1968, where he was a member of Sigma Pi fraternity. He earned a law degree from the University of Arkansas in 1972. Beebe served in the U.S. Army Reserve.

He practiced law in Searcy in White County for ten years after his graduation from law school. In 1982, he was elected to the Arkansas State Senate, where he would serve for twenty years. In 2002, he was elected Arkansas attorney general.

Beebe and his wife, Ginger, have three children.

Arkansas State University-Beebe is a public two-year college system located in central Arkansas, with its flagship campus in Beebe, Arkansas. The ASU-Beebe system is a subset of the Arkansas State University System.


ASU-Beebe was established in 1927 as the Junior Agricultural School of Central Arkansas. Since that time, it has been in continuous operation under four other names — from 1931 to 1954 as Junior Agriculture College of Central Arkansas, Arkansas State College-Beebe Branch from 1955 to 1967, Arkansas State University-Beebe Branch from 1967 to 2001, and has since been known as Arkansas State University-Beebe.

The institution operates under the policies of the Board of Trustees and the President of the Arkansas State University System, but programs at the campuses of ASU-Beebe function separately under the leadership of a chancellor.

Act 496, enacted by the General Assembly in 1985, established Arkansas State Technical Institute at Arkansas State University-Beebe to provide educational programs which combine academic skills and vocational training in highly technical employment areas.

In 1991, the state legislature merged White River Technical College in Newport with ASU-Beebe. The Newport campus became ASU-Newport, and was the first campus outside of Beebe for ASU-Beebe. As of 2000, ASU-Newport was approved as a stand-alone campus, and now reports directly to the ASU System, its Board of Trustees, and the President.

In the late 1990s, local community leaders in Heber Springs expressed interest in gaining a college campus. After a time of analysis and study, ASU-Heber Springs, the first technical campus of ASU-Beebe, was established in 1999.

In 2003, Foothills Technical Institute in Searcy merged with ASU-Beebe to become ASU-Searcy, the second technical campus of ASU-Beebe.

The college also operates a degree center at Little Rock Air Force Base in Jacksonville.

Searcy has been the White County seat since the county’s organization in 1835. Located on the Little Red River near the county’s geographic center, the town continues to be the county’s commercial, educational, and healthcare center.

Louisiana Purchase through Early Statehood

The Little Red River and the White Sulphur Springs figure in Searcy’s founding. On the west bank of the Little Red, below the mouth of Gin Creek, a Spanish land grant was surveyed for Frenchman Jean LaFayac (LaBass) and patented to him in 1805. By 1834, the White Sulphur Springs, developed by Samson Gray, were attracting visitors with their healing properties. The home of David Crise, about halfway between the springs and the river, was the site of the first county court, held on May 23, 1836. The first post office, Frankfort, was established in 1837, with Ephraim W. Guthrie as postmaster. In 1838, the name was changed to Searcy, and John W. Bond became postmaster. Searcy was named for Richard Searcy, a transplanted Tennessean who had served as judge in the Superior Court of Arkansas Territory.

Initial development was slowed because of a dispute over ownership of the town site. The U.S. Supreme Court settled the case, and in 1850 Israel Merrick Moore, a Pennsylvania Quaker, surveyed the town site and named the streets as named in Philadelphia. He donated land for churches, Spring Park, and the court square. Businesses developed and private schools were started. The White County court incorporated the town on August 6, 1851.

Civil War through Reconstruction

Searcy’s growth was interrupted again by the Civil War. Jesse N. Cypert, the county’s representative to the Secession Convention, was elected as an anti-secessionist, but with the attack on Fort Sumter sentiment changed, and Cypert voted for secession. Eight companies of men were raised locally, and Dandridge McRae became the only Confederate general from White County. In May 1862, Union troops under the command of General Samuel R. Curtis camped across the Little Red River east of Searcy. Union soldiers crossed the river and, while foraging, were attacked in the Action at Whitney’s Lane by Texas Rangers, led by Major Emory Rogers, and the local militia. It was the largest military engagement in White County and it thwarted Curtis’s drive toward Little Rock (Pulaski County). Searcy again saw action in August 1863, when the Union gunboat Cricket steamed up the Little Red and captured the Confederate steamboats Kaskaskia and Tom Sugg at Searcy Landing. This action was part of General Frederick Steele’s campaign to capture Little Rock.

Searcy was slow in recovering from the war. The Ku Klux Klan (KKK) was active in Searcy in 1868, resulting in the murder of Albert Parker, a secret agent of Governor Powell Clayton. Searcy was rebuilding by the 1870s, as illustrated by the erection of the White County Courthouse and the First Methodist Church, landmarks that still stand.

In 1872, the Cairo and Fulton Railroad was built across the county, bypassing Searcy for more level terrain. Realizing the railroad’s importance, leading citizens organized the Searcy Branch Railroad Company to connect Searcy with the new town of Kensett (White County) on the Cairo and Fulton.

Post-Reconstruction through Early Twentieth Century

The 1870s also saw the revival of the White Sulphur Springs as a health resort. Economically, the area also depended on cotton, the harvesting of hardwood timber with attendant mills, and farming with an emphasis on raising strawberries. In the early 1900s, Searcy also benefited from the arrival of the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific and the Missouri & North Arkansas railroads. Both hauled produce, especially timber and cotton. A Searcy firm, Owens Brothers, claimed it was the largest supplier of mules to the army during World War I. The White Sulphur Springs ceased flowing in the 1920s.

The programs of the New Deal reached Searcy: the Works Progress Administration (WPA) built a city hall and the American Legion Hut. Ray Yarnell started Yarnell’s Ice Cream Company in 1933. The strawberry harvest was the major cash crop of the Depression years, though later a dearth in pickers and drought in 1953–54 ended White County’s reign as strawberry king. But shrewd management and exceptional quality enabled Yarnell’s to survive the hard times. Today, it is the only Arkansas-based ice cream manufacturer in the state.

World War II through the Faubus Era

By March 1942, Searcy was committed to the war effort, with 152 of its young men in the military. Rationing, collecting scrap metal, buying war bonds, and saving grease were examples of the community’s support.

Searcy experienced steady growth after World War II, even though the two railroads fell victim to the postwar boom in automobiles, air travel, and modern trucking and finally went bankrupt. Businessmen led a concerted effort to attract industry. The first factory to arrive was the International Shoe Company of St. Louis, Missouri, which started production in 1947. Other industries followed, giving Searcy a diverse economic base of industry, agriculture, government services, education, and healthcare.


Private educational opportunities have been available since 1849, when the Polytechnic Institute of Searcy was founded by A. M. Rafter. During the late 1800s, the Searcy Male Academy and the Searcy Female Academy taught a generation of scholars, before giving way to Searcy public schools. Galloway Female College, sponsored by the Arkansas Methodist Episcopal Church, South, was chartered in 1888. Galloway closed in 1933. The campus was bought by Harding College, a Church of Christ–supported college established in Morrilton (Pope County) in 1924. Harding is the state’s largest private university, with 5,348 students representing all fifty states and several foreign countries. In 1966, Foothills Vocational-Technical School began accepting students; in 2003, it became the Searcy campus of Arkansas State University.

The Searcy public school system was established in 1870. Searcy High School is a member of the North Central Accreditation Association, having become a charter member in 1924.


Searcy’s industries started with tanneries, cotton gins, sawmills, and flourmills. Agriculture has continued in importance, with timber, rice, soybeans, cattle, poultry, corn, and winter wheat all having an impact on the local economy. Other industries include suppliers of parts for vehicles and household appliances. In addition, Searcy has two distribution warehouses for Wal-Mart.


The White County Fair, held annually since 1930, is the largest county fair in Arkansas, with over 50,000 attending annually. The Searcy Art Gallery is in the Black House, a restored 1870s Italianate house now on the National Register. Another National Register property is the White County Courthouse, which is the oldest functioning courthouse in Arkansas. The Events Center includes an outdoor sports complex and Pioneer Village, a re-created 1880s settlement. The historic Spring Park is part of a system that includes Berryhill, Yancey, and Riverside parks; all offer recreation facilities, picnic areas, and green space.

Famous Residents

Searcy has many famous former residents. Dandridge McRae (1829–1899), a native of Alabama, came to White County in 1849. In 1862, he was promoted to brigadier general and participated in the Battle of Helena. He also led Confederate forces during the Red River campaign. He is buried in Oak Grove Cemetery.

Stephen Brundidge Jr. (1857–1938) was elected to Congress in 1897 and served twelve years. He is buried in Oak Grove Cemetery.

John Elvis Miller

John Elvis Miller, U.S. federal judge for the Western District of Arkansas refused to hand down a decision on the 1957 lawsuit requesting that the plan to desegregate Little Rock (Pulaski County) schools be delayed; circa 1965.

John Elvis Miller (1888–1981), a native Missourian, graduated with a law degree from the University of Kentucky. In 1912, he began to practice law in Searcy. He served in the U.S. Congress from 1931 to 1937, resigning to become a senator after the death of Senator Joseph T. Robinson. Miller resigned from the U.S. Senate in 1941 to take an appointment as district judge for the Western District of Arkansas. He is buried at Forest Park Cemetery in Fort Smith (Sebastian County).

John Elvis Miller (1888–1981)

John Elvis Miller

John Elvis Miller, who resigned his seat in the U.S. Senate in 1941 when President Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed him U S. judge for the Western District of Arkansas; 1917.

John Elvis Miller, the son of a Confederate veteran, had a distinguished career in the law, sandwiched around a political career that took him to the U.S. Senate in one of the most startling Arkansas elections of the twentieth century. He was a prosecuting attorney, a congressman, and a senator, resigning the last position in 1941 when President Franklin Roosevelt appointed him U.S. judge for the Western District of Arkansas.

John E. Miller was born on May 15, 1888, in Stoddard County, Missouri, the son of John A. and Mary Harper Miller. As a child, he helped his parents and seven siblings raise cotton and corn on their Missouri bootheel farm. When he finished the ninth grade, he took an exam and began to teach elementary school while he attended high school. He taught school in southeastern Oklahoma and then returned to Missouri to teach and to be principal of a three-room school. In the summer of 1909, he sat in on trials while working as a deputy revenue commissioner. Then, with his savings from teaching, he quit three weeks into the fall term of school and went to Indiana to study law at Valparaiso University and the University of Kentucky at Lexington, where he received a bachelor of law degree in 1912. He decided to move to Arkansas to practice law, and on a train ride, he met a Batesville (Independence County) lawyer who suggested that he go to Searcy (White County). He began practicing law that year in Searcy as a partner of J. N. Rachel at a salary of fifty dollars a month. Miller became the Searcy city attorney in 1913 and then opened his own law practice in 1918. In October 1914, he married Ethel Lucile Lindsey of Lee County, and they had two children, Mary Louise and John E. Miller Jr. Ethel Miller died in April 1955, and in December 1956, he married Ethel Skinner of Fort Smith (Sebastian County).

He was a delegate to the Constitutional Convention of 1917–18, which drafted a new state constitution. Voters defeated the charter on December 14, 1918.

Miller was elected prosecuting attorney for five east-central Arkansas counties in 1918 and, the next year, prosecuted twelve African Americans accused of involvement in the Elaine Massacre of that year. The U.S. Supreme Court overturned the convictions in 1923 in a famous precedent, Moore v. Dempsey. The cases dragged on until January 1925, when Governor Thomas C. McRae gave indefinite furloughs from prison to the last six defendants. He would later say that his experiences as a prosecutor shaped his notions about jurisprudence the rest of his life. He recalled that every county had its own ideas about what practices were wrong. For example, when he summoned a grand jury in Helena (Phillips County) to investigate cockfighting and betting on horse races, the foreman told him that those things were part of their way of life and that they would determine what offenses needed to be prosecuted.

In 1930, Miller, a Democrat, was elected to the House of Representatives from the Second Congressional District. Voters reelected him three times. After Miller began his fourth term in 1937, Joseph Taylor Robinson of Arkansas, the majority leader of the U.S. Senate, died on July 14, just as Roosevelt was about to appoint him to the U.S. Supreme Court. Governor Carl E. Bailey called a special election to fill the rest of Robinson’s term. The Democratic State Committee, controlled by Bailey, nominated the governor as the Democratic candidate.

Democrats who were angry that the central committee, which largely comprised Bailey supporters, called a rump convention at the Marion Hotel in Little Rock (Pulaski County) to nominate an independent candidate. When U.S. Representative John L. McClellan of Malvern (Hot Spring County) suddenly backed out as the candidate before the convention, a friend of Miller’s sent his aide in Washington DC to the Chesapeake Bay during the night to find Miller, who was fishing, and have him fly to Little Rock. The next day, Miller lobbied delegates secretly from a room at the Grady Manning Hotel and won the convention’s nomination. He soon defeated Bailey with sixty-one percent of the vote.

Miller’s election, as an independent, was the first defeat of a Democratic candidate for state or federal office in an Arkansas race since Reconstruction. It was a blow to Roosevelt, who was trying to shore up support for the New Deal among Southern senators and whose officials had supported Bailey in the election. Bailey had campaigned as a supporter of Roosevelt and his programs, including his efforts to pack the Supreme Court with justices who would give the Constitution a more liberal construction. Miller opposed the court-packing strategy as a member of the House Judiciary Committee.

The next year, voters approved an amendment to the state constitution that allowed governors to fill vacancies in the Senate and most elected offices by appointment but barred him from appointing himself or his wife and barred the appointee from running for a full term afterward. The amendment also created a run-off in party primaries when no one received a majority of votes.

Despite their coolness over the 1937 election and Miller’s frequent disagreements with the president on state issues, Miller and Roosevelt were friends, and he often dined with the president at the White House. Roosevelt appointed Miller to a federal judgeship for the Western District of Arkansas in 1941. Miller served in the position until 1979, when he was ninety-one. He was one of the oldest practicing federal judges in history.

Miller presided over three far-reaching cases, including Aaron v. Cooper, the Little Rock school desegregation case. In 1956, he dismissed a petition by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) to order full integration of Little Rock schools, upholding the gradual desegregation plan drafted by Little Rock school Superintendent Virgil T. Blossom. But he kept jurisdiction so the court would see that desegregation was carried out.

In 1946, in a lawsuit brought by supporters of Sid McMath, Judge Miller ruled that 1,607 poll tax receipts in Garland County, nearly one-fourth of the potential vote, were fraudulent, which enabled McMath to be elected prosecuting attorney against the political machine of Leo McLaughlin. McMath was elected governor two years later.

In 1968, Miller put into federal receivership a hybrid savings and loan company called Arkansas Loan and Thrift, which had thrived under the regulatory agencies of Governor Orval Faubus. The resulting scandal produced criminal charges against the attorney general, Bruce Bennett, and resulted in the convictions of three company officials. It helped sully Faubus’s reputation and damaged his chances at future election.

Miller died on January 30, 1981, in Fort Smith (Sebastian County). He is buried in Forest Park Cemetery.

For additional information:

Akridge, Scott H., and Emmett E. Powers. A Severe and Bloody Fight: The Battle of Whitney’s Lane & Military Occupation of White County, Arkansas, May & June, 1862. Searcy, AR: White County Historical Museum, 1996.

Johnson, Claude. The Humorous History of White County, Arkansas. Searcy, AR:1975.

Muncy, Raymond Lee. Searcy, Arkansas: A Frontier Town Grows Up With America. Searcy, AR: Harding Press, 1976.

Strother, A. P., Sr. Searcy Centennial, 1837–1937. Searcy, AR: 1936.

White County Historical Society

Welcome to the website of the White County Historical Society. We were founded in 1961 "to bring together those people interested in the history of White County." Our major function is to discover and collect material that may help document the history of our area. The Society is one of the largest in the State of Arkansas. We have three major restoration projects: Pioneer Village, 1857 Smyrna Church and the last M&NA passenger car. We also research and preserve genealogical records of the county, comprehensive cemetery, marriage lists, Probate Court records and other “pieces of the past” such as oral histories and old photographs. The Historical Society also offers several publications and books..

This website contains a nearly comprehensive list of all known cemeteries in the county, an extensive list of probate records, and many other genealogical records.

Pioneer Village is a collection of 19th century buildings, farm implements and other items of historical interest. It will be open November 1 & 2 for a 40th anniversary showing.

Built in 1857, the Smyrna church is one of only five known antebellum church buildings remaining in the state and the oldest documented building standing in White County. It is presently undergoing an extensive restoration. To assist in fund-raising, artist-instructor Janelle Selvidge of Searcy has donated a beautiful water color painting of the church to the White County Historical Society. She and the Society are selling 11x14 acid-free prints of the scene, suitable for framing, for $50.

The White County Historical Society offers several publications for sale. Our cookbook " White County Cookin" is presently in it fourth printing. The second cookbook "White County Cookin Again" has recently been reprinted and a third "White County Cooks, Another Helping "is now available. "A Humorous History of White County" by Claude Johnson, provides a selection of pioneer customs, stories, lists and statistics. This book has recently been reprinted and is available for purchase.

Pioneer Village Log House

Framed by the beautiful flowers planted by Master Gardeners, Pioneer Village was a profusion of color in May 2007 when Historical Society Tony Young took this photograph. Despite limited funding, work continues on restoring the collection of 19th century buildings, which was moved from the Fairgrounds to Higginson Road by Society volunteers.


Tony Young, vice president of the White County Historical Society, captured these peaceful scenes of Pioneer Village following a snowfall the week before Christmas 2004. Pioneer Village is a collection of 19th Century White County buildings that are being restored on Higginson Road in Searcy. Each Saturday morning, weather permitting, Young and a corps of other volunteers are working at the Village with hopes of reopening the display to the public in coming months. The Historical Society agreed to take over the Village from the White County Fair Board and move it from the Fairgrounds to the new location two years ago.

Smyrna Church With New Roof

The rusty tin roof at historic Smyrna Church is gone and, as you can see in this June 1, 2007 photo, is being replaced by cedar shake shingles. Also, the roof sports a belfry of the type seen in the earliest known photo of the building. Preservation consultants originally estimated the restoration would cost $100,000 but unanticipated problems in repairing and stabilizing the substructure will cause the project to exceed that amount. Additional financial support will be needed for future phases, which include repairing and painting the exterior walls and finishing the interior. For additional information contact preservation chair Bill Leach. The 1857 structure, located on Highway 36 West, is owned by the City of Searcy but the restoration is being achieved with private donations and grants from the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program.



The Arkansas Historic Preservation Program recently awarded the Smyrna Church restoration project a grant for $36,000 for Phase II work on the historic church. The grant is a 2 for 1 match that will expand the $18,000 raised locally to a total of $54,000.

As the grant was being announced, Phase I work by the Morris Beck Construction Services under the direction of Clements and Associates, Architects was underway following the "Smyrna Lift Off" of April 14.

Phase I work consisted of lifting the building, digging new footings, concrete piers with rock facing, and replacing two severely rotted10' x 8" x 12" log sills. As the north sill was being replaced, the wall tried to shift. The contractor had taken sufficient precautions to keep the wall stabilized. It was then discovered that the wall to the east of the replaced beam was supported by a 4" x 4" post with an end tendon notched into the top of the beam. Although thought to be solid, moisture over the years had worked into the junction, softening the wood and leaving the joint weak. All work on Phase I was brought to a halt and the architect and members of the Smyrna Committee were contacted. On Thursday morning, June 22, members of the committee, the architect, and the contractor met. It was decided to suspend work (the building is stabilized) with the plan for reconstruction being revised. The plan has been revised to replace more of the north sill. The additional cost to Phase I will be absorbed with monies from Phase II.

Smyrna Church

Phase II plans call for a rebuilding of the chimney, the rebuilding of the belfry, and replacing the tin roof with a shake roof. It was hoped that enough funds would remain in Phase II to also rebuild the 9 over 9 windows and to paint the exterior, however, the previously listed projects must be completed first.

Donations to this project are still being accepted. Significant donations will be recognized with memorial plaques (two windows and the belfry are still available). Monies raised this year will be used toward the 2007 Phase III grant.

M&NA Mail and Coach Car

The White County Historical Society recently acquired one of the last remaining wooden Combination Car(a car that had both seating area and a traveling post office ) that was used on the Missouri & North Arkansas Railroad. The car was built in 1894 by the St. Charles Car Company in St. Charles. MO. It was used in the north Arkansas area until it was sold by the Missouri Pacific to the Missouri and North Arkansas on April the 12th 1929. It served on the M&NA and it’s successors until about 1945. For many years it had set without trucks (wheels) on Oak Street in Searcy and used as a home. In later years it has been allowed to deteriorate until it was scheduled for scrapping. Craig Christiansen and the White County Historical Society saved it. The car was donated to the WCHS after lengthy negotiations. The Society originally intended to move the car to Pioneer Village.

Train Car

In 2007 Craig Christiansen offered to house the car next to his recently remodeled Union Pacific Train Depot, in Bald Knob. With help and encouragement from Jim Wakefield, a railroad historian form Little Rock, the Society had the car moved to the Bald Knob Depot site.

Plans are being made to restore the car to it former glory. Many railroad buff and historians have expressed interest in assisting with the project.

Train With Cars

E.G. Baker photograph/James R. Fair collection/Boone County Heritage Museum

By Jim Wakefield

In a ritual once performed thousands of times daily all across the United States, this photo shows a stake truck backed up to the side door of the Railway Post Office section of Missouri & Arkansas Railway Baggage-Mail No. 55 for the exchange of outgoing for incoming mail with the Railway Mail Service clerks on the RPO. Beyond it appears to be a Railway Express Agency truck, positioned next to the baggage section for similar exchange of express shipments. M&A Combine No. 57 brings up the rear of the train. Both cars originally were mail-passenger combines with 30-foot RPO apartments and seating for 36 passengers in the coach section. Number 55 was converted to baggage-mail in 1931. Number 57 apparently was converted to a “Jim Crow” car for standby service between Kensett and Helena, backing up Brill Motor No. 605, which entered service on or about August 2, 1937.

Jim Crow Car

The fourth passenger window (from the car center) appears to be painted white, which was a common practice for toilet windows. Physical examination of Number 57 suggests that a partition was installed to separate “white” and “colored” passengers as required by segregation laws of the time. Scars on the wall, ceiling and floor suggest a toilet was added at that fourth window. After such changes, the car would have had a capacity of about “20W 14C.” The car’s RPO fixtures also may have been removed since the Helena-Kensett RPO was discontinued on or about July 19, 1937, and the only mail carried south of Kensett thereafter was “closed pouch,” which was allotted space in the baggage section. The clerestory of No. 57 originally had nine windows on each side in the RPO section and 10 on each side in the passenger section. All those in the RPO section appear to have remained in place through the end of service, but seven of those on each side of the passenger section were removed and the openings boarded up, leaving only the first, fifth and ninth windows to provide extra light and ventilation. The boarded-up windows can be seen in this photograph. Number 57 was retired in 1945. Probably between then and 1949, its car body was sold and set on the ground at Searcy very near the former M&NA main line to be used as a residence. On June 14, 2007, it was moved to Bald Knob by the White County Historical Society for preservation and restoration as part of a new rail equipment exhibit. It is the last known surviving M&NA passenger car.

For additional information and a slide show on the railcar restoration project, go to

By Jim Wakefield

M&NA Car

For about 60 years this old wooden combine, stripped of its trucks, sat on the east side of Oak Street in Searcy, just a few dozen feet from the former main line of the Missouri & North Arkansas Railroad, and its interchange with the Doniphan, Kensett & Searcy Railway, which switched the M&NA trackage in Searcy after the successor Missouri & Arkansas Railway ceased operations in 1946. The car was used as a residence for many years, then sat empty and deteriorated for several more. It remained there after the last M&NA trackage was removed to make way for the Beebe-Capps Expressway and the nearby DK&S trackage was removed to facilitate expansion of Harding University. The car remains there no more.

Photographs indicate the combine was M&NA No. 57. Rosters in railroad timetables from 1930 to 1945 listed it as “[Class] Coach-Mail, [Vestibule] Yes, [Partition] No, [Length Overall] 66 feet, 8 inches, [Seating Capacity] 36 W, [Weight Empty] 110,000 lbs.” Research by Dr. James R. Fair indicates it formerly had been Missouri Pacific No. 2706, sold to the M&NA on April 12, 1929 His research papers, which he generously donated to the Boone County Heritage Museum at Harrison include a diagram of MP No. 2707, which was built in 1894 by St. Charles Car Company. Number 2706 probably was built about the same time and very likely by the same builder. Four very similar cars were built for the M&NA between 1907 and 1914. All six were mail-passenger combines with 30-foot Railway Post Office apartments, where Railway Mail Service clerks picked up mail along the way, sorted it en route, and delivered it along the line or forwarded it to connecting lines. The coach section of all six cars contained seats for 36 passengers, usually serving as the “smoker” or sometimes as the “colored section” when “Jim Crow” laws required the segregation of passengers by race.

The MoP cars were a few inches longer than the M&NA cars, but interior arrangements were nearly identical, with a toilet in the right rear corner and a stove in the left rear corner. The most noticeable external differences were the trucks – six-wheel on these two MoP cars, four-wheel on the M&NA cars – and the passenger windows. The MoP cars had five pair on each side; the M&NA cars had a single, four pair and a smaller cut-glass single near the rear of each side. In later years, the window openings by the stoves were covered over. Number 57 probably was purchased as a standby for M&NA No. 53 (Pullman 1907) and No. 55-2nd (ACF 1914) on daily trains in each direction between Neosho Missouri and Kensett, and for M&NA No. 60 on a daily-except-Sunday round-trip between Kensett and Helena. The first two cars were built as mail-passenger combines like No. 57. They were converted to baggage-mail in 1931 and continued in service until 1946, albeit on a standby basis after a pair of ACF motor cars took over the runs north of Kensett in 1938. Number 60 was a baggage - mail - passenger combine that had been rebuilt in 1926 from an 1880-vintage coach. Another baggage-mail car, No. 58, was acquired in 1931 and the round-trip Kensett-Helena passenger train was replaced by a pair of mixed trains, one in each direction. They were so slow that the Kensett-Helena RPO clerk could work only partway southbound before transferring to the northbound train to return to Kensett. Number 58 probably was used on one of the south-end trains, with No. 60 on the other, and No. 57 continuing as a spare.

The Helena-Kensett RPO was discontinued altogether in 1937. Brill Motor No. 605 was placed in service to again make daily-except-Sunday Kensett-Helena passenger round trips. Recent discoveries suggest that No. 57 was modified so it and a steam locomotive could cover Kensett-Helena runs when the Brill car was out of service. A partition and a second toilet were installed in the passenger section. Seating capacity after these changes was about “20W 14C.” It is very likely the RPO appointments also were removed so that section could be used for express and baggage. Number 57 was retired in 1945. Other scars in the interior suggest it may have been further modified for work train service before being sold, probably by 1949when most of the M&A was scrapped. June 14, 2007, the old combine was moved to Bald Knob for restoration as part of a new railroad exhibit adjacent to the depot. It is the last known surviving M&NA passenger car. Anyone with additional information or photographs is encouraged to share them with the White County Historical Society, to whom the car now belongs.

A Coach-Mail and Baggage Car? By Jim Wakefield

Employee timetables listed Combine No. 57 as "Coach-Mail" with "No Partition" and seating for "36" or "36 W", but a partition and an extra toilet were added, reducing capacity to "20 W/ 14 C" or less, and the RPO section also may have been subdivided so the car could carry baggage and express as well while the Helena-Kensett RPO was running in mixed trains. These details were discovered only after residential trappings (linoleum, sheetrock, etc.) added while the car was on the ground at Searcy were removed, and the car was moved to Bald Knob.

Prior to November 1918, primary passenger trains on the M&NA usually ran through from Joplin, Missouri, to Helena, Arkansas. For most of this period, a local passenger train also made a round trip between Heber Springs and Helena. After 1918, the primary trains terminated at Kensett, leaving the Heber-Helena locals as the only passenger service south of Kensett. Before and after 1918, these runs often were made by a General Electric gas-electric car with a trailer containing a short (20’ or 15’) RPO apartment. The last trailer was No. 60, a baggage-mail-passenger combine rebuilt in 1925 or 1926 from Coach No. 16, a former Pennsylvania Railroad car built in the 1880’s and acquired by the M&NA about 1911. Number 60 had a 20-foot baggage-express section, a 15-foot RPO apartment and a coach section seating twelve. The GE cars were sold in 1927 and the south-end trains became steam-powered, most likely using No. 60 and a coach.

In March 1929, the trains were cut back to Kensett-Helena. Combine No. 57 was acquired the following month. In 1931, Baggage-Mail No. 58 was acquired, and the daily Kensett-Helena passenger train — requiring less than nine hours round trip, including a ninety-minute layover at Helena — was replaced by a pair of daily mixed trains that carried both freight and passengers. Their crews worked south one day and back the next. The trains were scheduled for about six hours or more either way but may have taken longer since they handled all of the railroad’s business south of Kensett. The RPO clerk worked all the way to Helena and back on the passenger trains, but worked on the southbound mixed only to its scheduled meeting point with the northbound, where he changed trains to work back to Kensett. Mail service between the meet point and Helena became "closed pouch" only,

Number 57 may have been modified to provide all passenger-train accommodations necessary on the Kensett-Helena trains in a single car. RPO fixtures could have been rearranged to reduce the mail apartment to the space (about 17 feet) rearward of the side doors, leaving the portion forward of the doors available for baggage and express. A partition to separate mail and baggage sections could have been installed. It would have required a door for the RPO clerk to access the side doors to pick up and drop off mail. Changes shortening the RPO would have been unlikely prior to the acquisition of No. 58 since a 30-foot RPO was required north of Kensett. A longer car could fill in for a shorter one (15-foot RPO south of Kensett), but not the other way around. A desk also may have been installed in the coach section for the conductor to do his freight business paper work. This would have reduced seating capacity to "16 W/ 14 C", but that probably would have been sufficient for declining traffic.

Brill Motor No. 605 restored Kensett-Helena round-trip passenger runs daily-except-Sunday when it entered service around August 2, 1937. It had a stated seating capacity of "14 W/14 C" and a 12-foot baggage section, but no RPO apartment since the route south of Kensett had been discontinued around July 19. The only mail now carried to or from Helena was "closed pouch" which was allotted space in the baggage section. Number 57, pulled by a 30-class 2-8-2, probably was used when No. 605 was out of service. All of No. 57’s RPO fixtures probably were removed and the door that is now in the center partition may have been installed at this time.

Very few photographs of the Kensett-Helena segment of the M&NA are known. Any photos that include trains, even if only a small portion in the background behind people, may be very helpful in answering questions about the railroad, including changes to No. 57 and its usage. (Used as an RPO, the car would have been lettered UNITED STATES MALL/RAILWAY POST OFFICE; if modified for baggage and express: RAILWAY EXPRESS AGENCY/BAGGAGE.) If you have any pictures that include any part of the M&NA, please share them.

Missouri & North Arkansas Combine No.57 — c.193l-37?

This diagram was modified than a diagram of Missouri Pacific No. 2707 in the James R. Fair Collection/Boone County Heritage Museum. It approximates the appearance of M&NA No. 57 (formerly Mo Pac No. 2706), and its floor plan it may have been if used in Kensett-Helena mixed tam service 1931-1937. Other than window style, the two cars were very similar. The length over buffers is from timetable rosters; length over sills is estimated; platform, step and truck wheelbase dimensions and wheel diameter are from No- 2707; other dimensions are from measurements of 57. All should be considered approximate, Details are not to scale.

Windows. There were nineteen’ windows (all apparently on 35 1/2" centers) on each side of the clerestory. Most of those in the RPO section remain with glass intact. Of ten clerestory windows on each side of the coach section, seven were removed and the openings covered inside (and out?) with sheet metal. The glass in the remaining three also was replaced with sheet metal, so they no longer provided extra, light although [hey still could be opened for ventilation. The upper-sash glass (which may have been stained or patterned) of the coach-section side windows likewise was replaced with sheet metal (Coach-window pairs were on about 70 ¼" centers.)

Segregated Seating. The car originally had nine seats on each side for a capacity of 36. All seats, including those at each end of the coach section, apparently had pedestal bases. About eighteen feet of (original?) flooring remains in place from the center partition back. Scars on this flooring indicate the location of six seats on each side, Seats were spaced on about 35" centers, with 2" to 4" extra before the end seats, whose pedestal center-lines were about 13" from the partitions, Seats on the left generally were about all inch forward of those on the right. A partition and second toilet were added as shown, evidenced by notches in the interior above-window molding and window sills; scars on the ceiling, walls and floor; and holes in the sub-flooring and under-floor sheathing, visible when viewed from below. This change would have reduced capacity to ‘20 W/l4 C"

Conductor’s Desk Added? There is a second pedestal scar for the sixth seat on the right, overlapping the normal location about six inches forward, suggesting the seat was moved. Passenger train conductors often improvised an ‘office" by using a facing seat for a ‘desk". Freight conductors had much more paperwork to process en route, especially when picking up and dropping cars as these mixed trains would have done. The fifth seat may have been removed and a desk added as shown and the sixth seat moved forward to a more comfortable location for using the desk. Such a change would have further reduced capacity to "16 W/14 C". (A similar modification may have been made in Coach No. 10, whose total seating capacity was reduced from 68 to 64, although this change was listed several months before the mixed train’s started in January 1936.)

Abbreviated RPO Apartment? The Railway Post Office route between Kensett and Neosho required a thirty-foot RPO, but the route between Helena and Kensett required only fifteen-feet. The M&NA acquired an extra baggage-mail car in 1931 so No. 57 probably was no longer needed as standby on Neosho-Kensett trains. Scars on the ceiling indicate No. 57 once had twelve or thirteen paper boxes (on 12 centers) on each side above the RPC windows. It probably also had bag racks below the windows and vertical pipe stanchion’s (to keep stacked bags from shifting) forward of the doors on both sides. Scars on the molding at the bottom of the right clerestory side apparently are from brackets (on 18" centers) for the stanchions as shown. There are no corresponding scars on the left side, but four metal plates (on about 36’ centers) above the RPO windows on the left may cover scars from stanchion brackets. Left-side racks and paper boxes may have been removed and stanchions forward of the left side door moved rearward of the door" and repositioned, leaving the front of the car available for baggage and express. A partition may have been added just rearward of the side doors.

Historical Pictures From White County:

Spring Snow

The area around the spring at Armstrong Springs some 100 years ago was a winter wonderland after this snowfall. photo courtesy of Julian Lane

Armstrong Springs Park

This 1880s scene is identified as “Armstrong Spring Park.” Note the numerous buildings in the background. The man on the wagon at left in the background is believed to be an Armstrong. What appears to be the roof of the springhouse is just beyond the picket fence at right. photo courtesy of Mildred Staerkel.

ARMSTRONG SPRINGS - Label for the "miracle water"

Native Americans discovered it first, then an Alabama blacksmith acquired the old watering hole that became known as Armstrong Springs. The health resort that sprang up on the spot a few miles west of Searcy attracted visitors from afar, and the miracle water was shipped throughout the country. When the resort faded, the area became a Catholic school for boys - the Morris Institute. Today, the water, the resort and the school are all gone, a unique page in White County history.

Americana Motel

--Courtesy Eddie Best, White County Historical Society

A picture postcard provided this 1960s view of the Americana Motel in Bald Knob.

Campbell Crisp Grayson House

Gerald Torrence of the White County Historical Society captured this view of the Campbell-Crisp-Grayson home at Bald Knob in 2001. The house was built in 1899 by Thomas J. Campbell for himself and his family. It remains symbolic of the economic growth and prosperity experienced at Bald Knob after the completion in 1888 of the Bald Knob - Memphis branch of the St. Louis, Iron Mountain and Southern Railroad by its owner, Jay Gould. This branch made Bald Knob a busy passenger and freight transfer point on the railroad and singlehandedly transformed the town from a small whistle stop into a thriving transportation hub. Though Thomas J. Campbell arrived in Bald Knob in 1890 as a conductor on passenger trains, he soon prospered in a variety of business enterprises. He married in 1891, and tax records reveal that he ran an unspecified small mercantile business by 1902. In 1904 he helped incorporate the Bald Knob State Banka nd served that institution as both a director and incorporator. He helped found the Bald Knob Strawberry Company, Inc., in 1911, just after strawberries had becomea profitable endeavor in parts of White County, and remained one of its shareholders until the company dissolved in 1917. Finally, he opened a "picture show" in the back of a building on Elm Street in Bald Knob in 1916. The house was constructed by Newport Builders Supply and Hardware Company and the architect is said to have been Charles Thompson, though no drawings survive to verify this claim. Malvern brick was used for the three interior courses of brick while the exterior brick is said to ahve been made on the grounds. Its style is an unusual combination of the Romanesque Revival and the Colonial Revival, though the massive arches and imposing square-headed rectangular windows more strongly influence the overall character of this ddesign than do the more delicate Classical details. As such it is certainly unique in Bald Knob and one of the finest surviving Romanesque designs in White County.

Missouri Pacific Depot

This is the Missouri Pacific depot at Bald Knob, photographed in 2001 by Gerald Torrence of the White County Historical Society. Located on the corner of Market and Ramey Streets in Bald Knob, the station is a single story, hipped-roof structure that utilizes several Colonial Revival features in its design. This structure was the second depot for Bald Knob. The first was built shortly after the town was incorporated in the late 1870s and was located a few blocks east of this one.

Early Beebe

Do you recognize any of the people or the home in this scene of early Beebe? The White County Historical Society received this photograph with no identification. Also, the picture was torn into two pieces but repaired and retouched by the Society. A jagged seam still shows faintly above the head of the woman in the center.
photo courtesy White County Historical Society

Small's Cafe


This is Small’s Coffee Shop in downtown Beebe, c1943. It was the forerunner of the highly popular Shorty Small’s Restaurant in west Little Rock. Mary Dean Rice Reynolds, a member of the White County Historical Society who provided this photo, lived in Beebe when the Smalls first came to town. This is her recollection: "Small's was located on Front street just across from the Train Depot. The building is still there [but no longer a cafe]. The Smalls came to Beebe from Illinois about 1939. There was a street car diner on the spot

where the coffee shop was built. I think when they first came to town they worked there. The cafe was really nice for Beebe at that time. Sadie was a great cook, very sweet lady. Claude "Shorty" Small was a little fat bald man with a quick temper and a sharp tongue. He worked in the dining room, telling everyone else what to do. I believe the cafe opened about 1940.

I worked there when I was in High School. They had one of the first Frosted Malt machines or as some say 'soft ice cream.' It was very poplar. Being on highway 67 we had lots of tourists. Sadie and Shorty had pulled a little trailer from Illinois; they lived in it behind the cafe. I don't remember when they went out of business. Bruce Anderson of Beebe started a restaurant in Little Rock called Shorty Small's. One of the writers for the Arkansas Democrat referred to Shorty Small as a fictional character. I had to call and tell him he had been a very real person."

Rice Home


This luxurious home in Beebe was built for merchant J.E. "Buddy" Wilson at the corner of Cherry and Illinois streets around 1905 and later served as a boarding house. The two-story structure is now owned by Mr. and Mrs. Leonard Fort, who purchased it around 1973. The ornate doors, molding and most of the trim are original, even though Mr. Fort had to replace some of the trim and paint much of the exterior and interior of the home. The home originally had 14 outside doors and each room had its own porch. The stained glass windows in the front of the home are original. The home has solid oak walls with floors of white pine. It had cedar shingles for roofing but new roofing was added many years later. Acording to the White County Historical Society White County Heritage publication of 1980, an interesting story about this home is the very "cold semicircle" around the location of the chair where Mr. Rice died. The Forts reported nothing sinister about this area except that they had to relocate their drawing room as guests found the room too "uncomfortable." The purpose of relating this information is not to start ghost stories but perhaps a report on old homes would not be complete without at least one such tale. The beautiful snow-covered scene above was provided by Mary Dean Rice Reynolds of the White County Historical Society, a granddaughter of Pierce and Ethel Rice, who bought the home from Buddy Wilson. This is her history of the house: "Mr. Wilson had a daughter who died when she was eight years old. He also had three sons. Mrs. Wilson died in 1925. It was after her death and the boys were grown that my grandparents, Pierce and Ethel Rice, rented the house from Mr. Wilson. The agreement was that Mr. Wilson would keep a bedroom and have meals with them. The house was large so they began to keep boarders. After Mr. Wilson's death in 1930 my grandparents bought the house. They continued to keep boarders until shortly before my grandmother's death in 1962. My grandfather died in 1968 in the nursing home at Jacksonville. So the story about the cold spot has another explanation. After Grandpa died the house was sold to Warren and Christine White. They did some modernizing. This house is very special to me. We lived there when I was very small and later lived next door. And then just down the street. I was the only grandchild for almost 10 years so I spent a lot of time there. Several years ago I wrote an article called 'Room and Board' for the Heritage [1993 edition, pp. 79-80]. I also sent an article I had written about Mr. Wilson's death. As a small child that was my first awareness, of death. Mr. and Mrs. Leonard Fort have done a fine job with the house and they are generous to let others visit it. My grandparents had lived at Antioch before moving to Beebe. Grandpa had a used furniture store for several years. I have a picture of the house with a Room & Board sign on a tree in the yard."

Beebe Downtown

Beebe Downtown

These three unique views of downtown Beebe were taken c1920. The elevated vantage point provides an interesting panorama of a busy, thriving community. Photos courtesy Mary Rice Reynolds, White County Historical Society.

Bebe Main St.

Bradford - 1915 Girl Friends

--photo courtesy Peggy Wyatt Wisdom

Eva Hackney and Zada Martin are shown at Bradford c1915. This was a picture postcard mailed to Miss Mettie Wyatt with this message: "Remember the good times we had? I will see you this summer..." Eva and Zada might have been sisters.

Tourist Camp

The “Modern So. Bradford Tourist Camp" shown in this 1938 view was located on Highway 67 at Bradford. Although off the beaten path today, this was a busy place 70 years ago when many travelers used this highway. Photo courtesy Peggy Wyatt Wisdom, White County Historical Society.

Steamboat Ozark
--Photo courtesy Barth Grayson, White County Historical Society

This steamboat was one of the largest and nicest of those that traveled the Little Red River during the wetter months during the late 1800s and early 1900s, when the river level was high. Named "Ozark," it is shown here in 1890 unloading supplies at Calico Rock on the White River, which it traveled year-round. Note the nicely dressed businessmen checking their wares.

MNA Section Hands

LOGGERS - 1915

Crosby Loggers 1915

Cross Grocery

Denmark Cross Grocery

Morris House

Denmark Morris House

Des Arc Bayou

Shanty boats are shown on the White River at Des Arc Bayou around 1911. Many families lived this way and some followed timber harvests and other local jobs. Photo courtesy Barth Grayson, publisher of the White County Record and a member of the White County Historical Society.

White River Suspension Bridge

This spectacular suspension bridge once spanned the White River at Des Arc. Photo courtesy Barth Grayson, publisher of the White County Record and a member of the White County Historical Society.

Doniphan Searcy and Kensett engine 1 1913

Old Stamps House

--courtesy Leon Van Patten, White County Historical Society

STAMPS HOUSE, Floyd-El Paso –This house was probably built by Capt. James Walker (War of 1812). The old Stamps House located two and a half miles southwest of Floyd toward El Paso was built in 1832. This was on the J.A. Choate farm. Donald Choate built a pump house over the original well located at the right in this illustration and used it for his home. The old chimney rock base was still there in 1978 when this sketch was completed. This illustration was by the late Bobby Van Patten of Searcy based on an early photo. The house originally was about 300 yards east of this location, almost on Bull Creek and south of the old cemetery. The Southwest Trail ran in front of it. The creek rising must have persuaded them to move the home to higher ground. Several graves, including that of Capt. Walker, have been found on the Choate farm and have been recorded by the Historical Society as "Stamps Cemetery," although there is reason to believe it was originally called "Royal Cemetery." It is in extremely poor condition and in danger of being lost. The area is especially historic because it probably marks the location of the "Royal Colony", now lost, which was established here in the early 1800s.

Four Mile Hill Oil Well

Garner Strawberry Label


Georgetown Depot

--photo courtesy Barth Grayson, White County Historical Society

The Missouri and North Arkansas Railroad served Georgetown through this depot in 1923. Shown are (left to right) John Marion Johnson, Ray Burgers, Burnly Wadley, Mr. Thomas and Mr. Rogers. The M&NA is just a memory today but the depot lives on, as a private residence.

White River Barge

For as long as folks around Georgetown can remember, the White River has been an important highway for commercial and personal use. This barge was headed upriver when Gerald Torrence captured it with his camera on March 10, 2001.


Hays Grocery was a popular gathering spot at Gravel Hill in White County, Arkansas, when this photo was made in 1935. Seated on nail kegs in front of the gas pump are the Hays sisters, Cleo (left) and Lillian, along with Dale Barnett. Dale's grandson Jeff Barnett brought this "piece of the past" to the Whtie County Historical Society in 2005. He said Dale was living in Bald Knob at that time.

Dam on Big Creek

Hiram, which was once a part of White County, was the location of this dam on Big Creek in 1927. The hydroelectric dam was built at the base of Hiram Bluff, creating great promise for residents of the area. The excitement was short lived, however, because the dam was carried away by a flood just months after its completion. Hiram is located two miles north of Pangburn and is now in Cleburne County. Photo courtesy Teresa Hayes Phillips and the White County Historical Society.

Judsonia Bridge

This beautiful modern-day scene on Little Red River at Judsonia captures one of the most unique bridges in Arkansas. The cantilevered turn span highway bridge across the river at Judsonia was completed in 1924. It is the only center-bearing swing bridge which survives in the state. The R.L. Gaster Construction Company of Little Rock erected the 2265-foot main span while the residents of Judsonia displayed community spirit in donating time and money to the approaches. The bridge was constructed as part of a national modernizing movement to improve roads, giving the town of Judsonia access to outlying regions on the opposite side of the river. As steamboats came up Little Red River, the bridge's turn mechanism was operated by one person in the center of the bridge using a key or lever that fit directly into the gars. The peak at the top of the bridge structurally aided in centering the weight over the center pivot and in supporting the ends when the bridge was open. The bridge ceased to turn in the late 1920s as navigation on the river diminished.

Humphries Store
--courtesy White County Historical Society

J.C. Humphries Store, Judsonia, 1888 – At the time this photograph was made, this was thought to be the oldest store in Judsonia. J.G. Humphries is shown standing by the left post next to his wife Mary, and sons Bert and Brad. Another son, Lester, is at extreme right. The photo is owned by Lynn Kiser of Searcy, Humphries’ granddaughter. She says the family told her about a small café in the back of the store. Note the Coca-Cola sign at far left.

Little Red Buice Store, c 1900

Little Red Collapsed Bridge

Little Red Napoleon Hilger Home

McRae’s Cafe Under the Old Oak Tree


ip Holt of McRae tells of the famous café in McRae. In most cafes, people may see a few plants hanging or sitting around, but having a tree in the center of the café was quite unusual. The name of the café was the Oak Tree Inn.

The café was built around one of McRae’s biggest oaks, 13 feet and 7 inches in circumference. The café was run by Speedy Fuller, but the building was owned by L.P. “Doc” Ernest, and he had no idea the wind would cause the tree to shift, so every time it rained the roof would need to be packed around the tree. The tree café was tremendously popular and received a great deal of business due to the oak tree. Tourists liked to take pictures of the café.

The Oak Tree Inn was located in the middle section of McRae, the most lively part of town. Surrounding the café were a pool hall, a beer joint and a liquor store. A great deal of commotion and fighting went on outside of the café. A fire destroyed the building in the late 1940s and killed the tree, and it finally had to be cut down.

Wiley and Omie Henry


Building Patton Trestle

Building the Patton Hollow Trestle in 1907. In 1910 or ’11, the structure was declared unsafe and the trestle was filled in with dirt. This area is located near the Dripping Springs boat dock on Little Red River. An old cemetery is also located here. Photo courtesy Leon Van Patten, long-time treasurer of the White County Historical Society who grew up at Pangburn. From Ray D. Raines collection.

MNA Depot

The Missouri and North Arkansas Depot at Pangburn about 1921. Photo taken by Albert Whisnant. Courtesy Leon Van Patten, White County Historical Society.

Pangburn Suspension Bridge

The Pangburn suspension bridge served the community for nearly half a century. It was built in 1909 and razed in 1958. Note the man on horseback riding between the two columns. Photo courtesy Barth Grayson, publisher of the White County Record and a member of the White County Historical Society.

A. C. Hughes Home

Hooks Family's Dogtrot Home, c1910

The picture, taken about 1910, near Romance, Arkansas, shows the family of William Asbury Hooks and his wife Rebecca Ann. He is the man with the long beard on the left end. Asbury, as he was called, was born in Georgia in 1844. His father moved the family to Columbia County, Arkansas in the 1850s.

On February 26, 1862, Asbury enlisted in Company B of the 19th Arkansas Infantry (Dockery’s). He was captured by Union troops at the battle of Vicksburg in May 1863, then sent to Ft. Delaware prison. He was exchanged on Christmas day of 1863 and returned to his unit, which was stationed at Shreveport when the war ended.

Rebecca Ann was the daughter of Eldridge Myatt, who was born in Tennessee and moved to Arkansas in the late 1840s. He initially settled in Calhoun County and later filed a claim for a land grant in Columbia County, Arkansas in 1852.

Asbury and Rebecca were married on November 22, 1866, in Columbia Columbia County and became the parents of nine children. Subsequently, Eldridge Myatt and Asbury Hooks moved their families to White County and settled in Marshall Township, where they were listed in the 1880 census. Asbury was a farmer and his home was located a couple of miles southwest of Romance at the southwest corner of the intersection of Highways 5 and 310.

Asbury died in 1922 and Rebecca in 1924. They and many other family members are buried in the Romance Cemetery.

In the picture, Asbury and Rebecca Ann are on the left end. Their youngest son, Kenny Lester Hooks, is on the far right end. Between are several of their childrens’ families in four groupings.

The group next to Rebecca is her daughter Cora with husband William Hill. Standing in front of them are their children Gladys, Chester (father of Jerry Hill, who provided this photograph and information to the White County Historical Society) and Reuben.

The next grouping is Edmond Hooks with son Byron in his arms and wife Nancy. Son Lance is standing in front of her.

Next is James Ummie Hooks with son Arless in his arms standing next to wife Odeal. Children Clarence and Rhena are standing in front of them.

Next are Vernon Hooks with daughter Addie standing in front. His wife, Addie, is next to him holding their daughter Mary Lee.

Hooks children missing from the picture are the oldest daughter Martha, son William who died in 1895 at age 26, son Thomas born in 1897 and son A.H. who died in 1889 at age 6.

The picture was taken in front of what appears to be a new house that eventually became the home of Kenny Lester Hooks. The clues to the newness are the appearance of the mortar on the chimney and the shake roof. Note how the house was built in the traditional dogtrot style with the open gallery through the middle of the house.

Romance Community in 1930

--Photo courtesy Ervin Barnett & White County Historical Society

Mudholes and unpaved streets highlight this photo of the Romance community taken in 1930.

Russell, AR Service Station

Henry W. Klotz Service Station

The Black House

One of the most visible symbols of our White County heritage is the historic Black House, home of the Searcy Arts Council when this photograph was made in April 2007. The Rodgers home, which sat to the right of the bulldozer had just been razed, making the Black House more prominent than ever.

Old Galloway College

--Photo Courtesy Ivan Quattlebaum, White County Historical Society

Old Galloway, Galloway College in Searcy. This building was destroyed by fire in 1898. It was built in 1888. This photo, which appears to be from an early yearbook, was found in a scrapbook owned earlier by Oran Vaughn, a charter member of the White County Historical Society. Beneath the photo was this printed caption: "Does your memory go back to the years that are gone, When this building stood strong and fair? And you strolled through its halls, a merry girl, With no thought of sorrow or care? Ah, never again will we hear the sweet chimes Ring out from the old clock tower; But a Galloway has risen from ashes and smoke, A Phoenix, with new strength and new power." Galloway, a women’s college, was consolidated into Hendrix College in Conway in 1934 and the campus sold to Harding College.

Searcy Rock Quarry
--Photo courtesy Ivan Quattlebaum, White County Historical Society

Searcy rock quarry c1900. This photo came from a scrapbook owned by the late Oran J. Vaughan, a charter member of the White County Historical Society, who wrote the following caption: "This rock crusher belonged to a dray company headed by Mr. W.H. Lightle (grandfather of Ed Lightle and Lee Biggs). The company was engaged in hauling freight, in wagons, between Searcy and Kensett. There was a period of time when inbound freight could be transported more cheaply from Kensett than to ship all the way into town over the Rock Island, which was the only railroad serving Searcy at the time. Later, there were two others – the Missouri & North Arkansas and the Doniphan, Kensett & Searcy. The stone was quarried out of the end of the ridge on the east side of Rocky Branch (where the continuation of North Main Street crosses it) and run through the crusher. The power unit was a self-propelled rig consisting of steam boiler and engine. The crushed stone was used to surface the road into town and the railroad dump used by the DK&S line from Searcy to Kensett. It had first been used by a tram road from West Point to Searcy and later by a light rail line from Kensett to Searcy (that service was started after the completion of the Cairo & Fulton railroad (later the Missouri Pacific) that was completed about 1875. The said dump was privately owned at the time the dray company surfaced it. Rail service had been discontinued on it subsequent to the completion of the Rock Island (originally the Des Arc & Northern). Searcy’s connection on the main railroad was at Higginson at that time."

Gem Cafe, Searcy, AR
--photo courtesy Ivan Quattlebaum, White County Historical Society

This scene is from approximately 1900, when Gem Café operated on the southwest corner of Spring and Center in Searcy. Directly behind the café, Giles Walker had the City Meat Market. And, as the giant sign on the side of the building proclaims, Cokes were only a nickel. The name at the top of the front of the building is "O.W. James." At least four chimneys can be counted. The streetlight dangling from the wires overhead appears crude but was probably very effective. Note the onlookers in the upstairs windows, which obviously had no screens.

M&NA Engine number 9
--photo courtesy Barth Grayson, White County Historical Society

Although it was never really successful, the Missouri & North Arkansas Railroad made a tremendous impact on the early growth of White County. Can you imagine the excitement when this M&NA Engine #9 pulled out in 1908 with this first train from Searcy to Heber Springs? Large crowds gathered each time the train came and went. Suddenly, small towns along the line from the White River to north Arkansas were easily within reach regardless of the weather. The line also provided employment for many men for many years. For more information on the M&NA, read "Shortline Railroads of Arkansas" by Clifton E. Hull.

Scarsdale Sign Company

Scarsdale Sign Company, c1949. Shown are Junior Scarsdale (second from left), Kyle Searcy Sr. and Mr. Scarsdale (Junior’s father). Courtesy Kyle Searcy Jr.

Senior Memorial Hall

Galloway views circa 1905. Senior Memorial Hall, furnished and presented by the Class of 1903; A section of the Galloway parlors. Both views apparently taken from a Galloway yearbook. Courtesy Ivan Quattlebaum from his personal scrapbook in 1998, by White County Historical Society.

West Side of Courthouse

West Side of Courthouse Square, Searcy, early 1900s. This is the block on Spruce Street located between Arch and Race streets that faces the west side of the Courthouse. Occupants of the buildings were The Searcy Bank, The Petty Hardware & Furniture Store, the Monrose Woodson Grocery Store, J.W. Hall, J.E. Shumate & Co. and a barber shop. Occupants of the buildings beyond are not known. Dr. J.L. Allen had his office on the second floor of the bank building. The man on the walk to the right of the light pole and leaning with his right shoulder against the building is J.F. (Jake) Fisk, who started the scrapbook in which this undated photograph was found. The caption was written by Oran J. Vaughan but the scrapbook was owned in 1998 by Ivan Quattlebaum of Searcy. Both men were members of the White County Historical Society. The man standing on the edge of the walk and under the word “Grocery” in the overhead sign is Joe Woodson, owner of the building, and brother of Monroe Woodson. He was the father of Arthur and Tobe Woodson, who were living in Searcy in 1964 when Vaughan wrote the caption. Joe Woodson manufactured brick in Searcy and was a contractor in the construction of brick structures. Note the extrovert who climbed halfway up the light pole to be sure he was included in the picture. Note the high-wheeled child’s wagon and the baby buggy with the rattan body on the walk in front of the hardware store. There was a new concrete walk but the street was entirely without surfacing.

Searcy Oil Company

Searcy Cotton Oil Co. c1900.

Photo courtesy Ivan Quattlebaum,White County Historical Society

Galloway College, Searcy, AR

Galloway College, Searcy, 1898. This building replaced the original building which was built in 1888 and burned. The 1898 building was razed to make room for the Administration Building and Student Union of Harding College. Searcy was chosen as the site for Galloway by the Methodists of Arkansas because the town made the most generous offer in land and money. It was said that at least one donor to that fund mortgaged his home to raise the money and ultimately lost it. Courtesy Ivan Quattlebaum, White County Historical Society.

Merchants Grocer Co. and Peoples Bank

Merchants Grocer Co. and Peoples Bank were located on the east side of Courthouse Square in Searcy. The bank was chartered July 6, 1889 with a capital stock of $30,000and folded during the depression, September 30, 1931. Photo courtesy Ivan Quattlebaum collection, White County Historical Society.

Searcy Gentry Memorial Methodist

Gentry Baptist Church

Searcy Gentry Memorial Methodist congregation in front of their building in 1901. This church was located on the site of present First Baptist Church.

Cumberland Presbyterian, Searcy

Cumberland Presbyterian, Searcy shortly after it was built in 1903. This building replaced the first Cumberland Presbyterian Church, a frame building. The church was organized on July 15,1850, by Alexander Stevenson and J.A. Wison, ministers from Tennessee. Photo courtesy Ivan Quattlebaum, White County Historical Society.

The Rialto Theatre

The Rialto Theatre is located across the street from the White Country Courthouse in downtown Searcy. These photos were made in 1999 by Heber Taylor, a free-lance journalist and member of the White County Historical Society. Victor Weber is shown at the Rialto's concession stand. Note the picture of K.K. “Deacon” King, which usually sits on the counter. Victor said Deacon had the Rialto from the 1930s to ‘70s and he could feel Deacon’s spirit there.

The "Old" Post Office, Searcy, AR

This view of what today is called "The Old Post Office" is on a postcard owned by Betty J. Bennett of Letona, a member of the White County Historical Society. The card was never used but it is similar in design to another in her collection that was mailed in 1938. The vehicle shown suggests the image is older than '38. The post office is located on the southwest corner of Gum and Arch streets in downtown Searcy. It was built in 1914 at a cost of $40,000.

The Mayfair Hotel

The Mayfair Hotel standing on the northwest corner of Spring and Center streets in downtown Searcy was regionally renown when this postcard was printed in the late 1930s. The hotel was built in 1924 on the site of an earlier frame hotel, the Gill House, and became a focal point of the community for many years. This postcard, which was never used, is owned by Betty J. Bennett of Letona, a member of the White County Historical Society.

Fritts Rudesill House in 1952

Fritts-Rudesill House

Vinity Old Dogtrot House

Old Dogtrot House

Old J.K. Hale General Merchandise Store

J.K. Hale General Store

Pate Brothers Grocery

This photograph was submitted to the White County Historical Society in June 2007 by Billie Grunden of Jasper, Texas, who provided the following information:

This grocery store was owned by my grandfather Elijah Temple Pate. At first, Elijah and his brother Thomas Pate were partners in the store, but Elijah soon bought him out. The store was located across from the railroad station in West Point. When the train stopped, the passengers would walk over to purchase cold drinks and snacks. This picture was taken around 1915. After my grandfather's death, my grandmother, Mary Helen Gilpin Pate, kept the store open. The Great Depression brought hard times to the area, and she was compassionate and let people have groceries knowing they could not pay for them. In the 1930s, the store was torn down, and a home was built for Mary Helen Pate on the site. The home is still in West Point, but the train tracks are gone. Elijah and Mary Helen are both buried in the West Point Cemetery. Elijah Temple Pate was born Sept. 5, 1876, in Wayne County, NC, and died August 31, 1919 in West Point. His parents were William Joseph and Smithey Pate. Mary Helen Gilpin Pate was born September 25, 1881, in Ouachita Parish, LA, and died October 29, 1948, in Searcy. Her parents were James D. Gilpin and Rachel Lee Groves (the first wife of James Gilpin). My dad, William E. Pate, has many fond memories of his childhood in West Point. A few years ago, he recorded some of them for his grandchildren.


This collection of 19th century buildings was moved by the White County Hsitorical Society from the White County Fairgrounds to Higginson Road in Searcy two years ago, and is still undergoing restoration. Volunteers work every Saturday morning. If you’d like to help, contact WCHS vice president Tony Young or any other WCHS officer. The following is an update on activities at the Village.


Vice President, White County Historical Society

October 23, 2006

The old Randall log house from Moore Street will live again at Pioneer Village. Workers dismantled it last month and salvaged as many logs as possible. They were hauled to the Village on Higginson Road and stacked under the roof of the equipment shed, after the farm implements were temporarily moved back outside. There are probably enough logs to build a two-room house. Also, the bricks from the chimney and foundation piers were saved and are being cleaned by community service workers. Carpenters have resumed framing “Peggy’s Porch,” in honor of long-time Historical Society secretary Peggy Wisdom. This is on the south side of the Gordon log house at Pioneer Village. Rafters are up and an existing supply of used roof decking boards should be enough to do the job. Recent wildfires out west have caused many places to outlaw wooden shingles. They are hard to find and expensive. We are weighing the differences between putting on a tin roof or roll roofing that would be temporary until shingles are obtainable. When that approach was taken before, the house sat for seven years under a temporary roof before Walter Wisdom was commissioned to split and install wooden shingles. Preservation chairman Bill Leach is working to get rocks hauled in for the chimneys on the Gordon house and locate a stone mason. Some rocks have been donated by Pat Garner of Searcy, and other rocks were salvaged from the chimneys at Fairgrounds. When other volunteers attempted to make Pioneer Village a living history museum in 1995, some of the furnishings were placed in storage at Collison’s warehouse in Bald Knob, and they are still there 11 years later. Bill inspected these items recently and found them still in good condition and in the dry. Once the conservation workshop/storage house is secure, these items can be returned to the Village. There is also storage space that the city officials have graciously provided in the old Moore Street armory. A few items previously in the armory storage are now back in the Village. The Collison family has earned the gratitude of the Historical Society for providing storage for so long. Railroad historian Jim Wakefield of Little Rock has offered $2,000 in seed money to move a rare old M&NA railroad car to the Village. Although this is a distance of only about six blocks, the first bid on moving it was $5,000. Another $1,000 has been pledged. So with $3,000 committed, we are shopping for a less-expensive mover. Historical Society volunteers will continue trying to make this project happen, although the highest priority is to get the Gordon house shipshape. Planned future displays include a gristmill, blacksmith shop, livery stable, strawberry shed, cotton gin and a brush arbor or church. There is also a need to get a fence around the property. We have some chain link fence that the Fair Board gave us. One proposal is to put it across the back of the property and plant honeysuckle on it to create a screen between the Village and the softball fields. A rustic cedar picket fence that complements the old buildings is one proposal for the front side. This would last about 20 years with minimal maintenance. Another proposal is a decorative iron picket fence would provide more security. It is hoped these construction issues will be resolved soon so that we can accelerate our restoration and reopen the bigger and better Pioneer Village.

June 26, 2006

It has been several months since my last update on the restoration of Pioneer Village in Searcy. Since that time, the depot has been leveled on its piers, tests have been done to determine the original interior colors, and many layers of paint have been scraped from the interior walls and ceilings. Broken windowpanes have been replaced. Sash cords have been replaced and counterweights reattached. Railroad historian Jim Wakefield of Little Rock has learned that this depot was built by the St. Louis & Iron Mountain Railroad in 1886, and then it became part of the Missouri Pacific Railroad in 1917. The missing partition between the depot agent’s office and the “Colored” waiting room would have been a solid wall with a door in the middle. A wooden grill at the end near the stove allowed heat to pass to the rest of the building. Part of this grill was found in the attic but we didn’t know what it was until Jim told us! The outline of the partition is clearly visible on the floor, adjacent walls and ceiling. The red-and-white exterior is probably close to the Missouri Pacific’s colors, however a black and white photograph from 1923 shows a light blending with darker trim. I suspect the colors are reversed from the original MoPac scheme. Much work remains on the depot.

While on the subject of railroads, Bill Leach, perhaps at my coaxing, has investigated the possibility of obtaining the green passenger railcar that sits on Oak Street across from Thompson’s Salvage Yard. It is visible from the Beebe-Capps Expressway, especially now since the old feel mill has been torn down. The car is very rough but would make a wonderful addition to our Village. It is a combine car –part passenger coach and part railroad post office. Jim Wakefield has investigated the car and says it is the last remaining piece of the Missouri and North Arkansas Railroad. He believes he knows what car it is but can’t find the serial numbers to confirm it. If it’s what he thinks it is, M&NA purchased it used from the St. Louis & Iron Mountain Railroad and it may date to about 1900 but could easily go back to the 1880s. The original color may have been maroon. Jim says he has seen cars in much worse shape restored and assures us that this one could be saved. The owner is willing to let us have it, and we have an offer of some money to move it. Two questions are whether it can be moved for the available money and whether we have the manpower to restore it? Bill is trying to get a price to move it. Due to changes in the Department of Community Corrections, our community service workers are not as plentiful as they once were. Those we have are committed to other projects at the Village. Several men are interested in the project but, because of health, age or other commitments, are not able to do the physical work of restoring this car. Aren’t there a few good men out there willing to take on this diamond in the rough?

In other projects, Bill is concentrating all his efforts on getting the Gordon House restored. The bad logs have been reworked. We have rocks donated for the chimneys, and County Judge Bob Parish has said he would get the County to haul them for us. Bill has located the son from the father-and-son team that built the chimneys in 1967at the Fairgrounds. This man is interested in doing the work for us again. We have much material available on-site to rebuild the front porch, which is to be known as Peggy’s Porch in honor of Peggy Wisdom. Some new material will be purchased with funds given in Peggy’s memory. In the new Pioneer Village, smaller porches will also be added on either end to help protect the kitchen doors, with a handicap ramp planned at the west door, which is closest to the ground. The kitchen will be moved to the east end of the back room nearest the well house. Its porch will be big enough to do some demonstrating on. The smokehouse has been moved from the Walker community and looks great sitting between the house and barn.

A little work has been done on the lean-to around the log barn that we moved from near Rosebud. This project has bumped along on-again and off-again. I’ve been tying up loose ends on several buildings and hope to move on to this one before summer’s end. A second horse-drawn grader has been donated from the northern part of the county. Rusty like the other one before we painted it, this one has a nameplate and serial number. It’s a Russell Junior and application of a little oil allowed all the adjusting levers and wheels to move! A search of the Internet provided several pictures and some information. The grader was originally red, perhaps with black wheels. A few traces of red paint remain in inside corners. Another Russell Junior with a slightly lower serial number was dated to 1926-27, so ours is probably about 1927. Russell eventually became part of the Caterpillar Corporation. Our grader was last used by the local residents to plow themselves out from under the big snow of 1977. They pulled it with a farm tractor. Since that time, a large tree had grown up through the frame and had to be cut down to get the grader out. Speaking of donated equipment, we have another drop rake and a two-row planter donated whenever we can get around to going after them. One comes with a small barn or implement shed that the owner wants torn down. Volunteers?

I’ve replaced a screen over a vent in the jail to keep the critters out and swept the dirt out. Water hoses and other garden equipment have been evicted and the jail is finished. We will probably come back later and put some roof paint on the tin. I’ve finally gotten the handrail up on the store porch, worked on some battens that were split or missing, and I’ve made a plug for the attic access hole in the ceiling. The door has some new trim and the latch has been fixed so it actually woks. A few more items are needed to tighten the building in general, and it will be ready for furnishings. I’ve almost finished building floor-to-ceiling shelving the entire length of the left wall as you enter.

A shed has been constructed on the creek bank for the salt kettle display. WE should have the kettle moved in the near future. I’m looking into signage to identify existing buildings and displays and to mark sites of planned future exhibits. The Lewis Saw Shed is under roof. The porch for the moonshine still is enclosed and parts of the still are in there. The central lumber storage area is enclosed and much of our remaining salvaged lumber is in there. The woodwright’s workshop area is still open. We thinned the pine trees along the creek last summer and this spring had a man with a portable sawmill cut the logs into boards which are now stacked and drying for siding the sawmill and blacksmith shops. We really didn’t save anything over buying lumber but at least we can say the buildings were built with timber cut right off the land!

We’ve put baseboard in the schoolhouse to cover gaps between the floor and walls. These still need to be painted as do the inside of the window sashes. We still need to set posts to put the school up on. The bell itself is still in my workshop waiting for a good wire brushing and a fresh coat of wrought iron black paint. Several years of using the schoolhouse for our work headquarters have produced dirty handprints everywhere, especially around the doors. These areas need a good washing and perhaps a little paint touch-up. The electrical wiring update has a problem that still needs to be worked out before the power can be turned on in the building.

The Master Gardeners have continued their work with the flowerbeds. They have planted an herb garden behind the kitchen of the Gordon House and two willow oak trees in front of the house. Some shrubs and a rose bush at the store porch dress it up a bit even if not quite historically accurate.

Our plans are to finish what is started and get the Village opened again. We will have as much ready as there ever was at the Fairgrounds. We hope to have a fall festival some time after the White County Fair but not to interfere with other fall festivals in the area. Perhaps early October would be a good time. This will give people a chance to see the new Pioneer Village and discuss plans for future exhibits or improving existing ones. Look for a friends group to be launched in the near future. Volunteers are always welcome. Bring your tools, bring your skills, adopt an artifact or adopt a building. Build a fence, roof a cabin, cane a chair seat, clean up an old plow – whatever interests you. Or, just come by and share your memories of how things used to be. New input can be helpful to those of us trying to make a historically accurate restoration. We’ve learned a lot from those who just came by to visit and ended up telling about a certain piece that they were familiar with. We work every Saturday morning except holidays and foul weather days. I sometimes return in the afternoon or an evening to work on a project of special interest to me. The Master Gardeners are out every Tuesday morning. Other arrangements are possible. Just give Bill or Tony a call. You might even take a piece home to work on at your convenience. Hoping to see you soon at the new Pioneer Village Living Museum!

UPDATE July 2005

There has been a good turnout of workers at Pioneer Village the last few weeks with progress continuing. The work is being done on Saturday mornings. Here’s an update as of July 1, 2005:

County Judge Bob Parish has donated two truckloads of “screenings” (gravel), used to “floor” the pole bar and “pave” the road south of the bridge. The roof of the pole barn has been painted and the farm equipment is now sheltered. Tony Young, vice president of the Historical Society, has been bringing lumber “seconds” donated by Cedar Creek Wholesale of North Little Rock. We have stored the lumber in the overhead area of the pole barn, and are starting to work on a second pole barn, which will be divided into three sections. The front will have the sawmill and woodworking display. The middle will be for lumber storage and the back section will hold the moonshine still. This building was made possible by the $1,000 donation of Angus Morehead of the Lewis family of Griffithville, who donated the buzz saw when the Village was located at the Fair Grounds.

We have found a craftsman to work on the log house. He will “tighten” the logs and replace the wood in the gables. Then the chimneys can be built. Estimated cost for the two new chimneys is $8,000. This is the major remaining expense that is not funded. Once the chimneys are up, then we can start building a fence around the entire Village. The schoolhouse still needs some minor painting on the interior. We have decided to put four-inch baseboards around the interior wall. Brick piers have been built to support the new porch. The waiting rooms in the depot have been scraped in preparation for new coats of paint. The walls were originally a light green with a dark brown trim. The board of directors has agreed to loan the Village velocipede to the restored Bald Knob depot.

Tony Young will start building shelves in the store soon, once we get the extra lumber out of the way (hence the need for a second pole barn for storage). Furniture can then be moved back into the store. The horse-drawn road grader, located behind the schoolhouse, has been painted. The wooden driver platform must be rebuilt but the new black finish on the grader looks good.

The Master Gardeners continue to keep the grounds looking great. They are adding an herb garden behind the house and have placed landscape timbers and mulch around the pine trees. The Dent Martin fruit storage shed and washhouse, located at Walker, has been donated to the Master Gardeners, who will move it to the Village and use it for their storage shed. Shrubs are being watered on Saturdays and at mid-week.

The windmill that was left behind at the Fair Grounds has lost its blade, which fell off and is on the ground. The tin in the blades is rusty and cracked, and the frame holding the blades was bent in the fall. We are studying whether it can be salvaged. Recent donations include a punch for horseshoe nails by Historical Society member Raymond Toler of Springdale, a featherbed that was made by the mother of WCHS honorary lifetime member Leister Presley of Searcy, and items from the estate of long-time secretary Peggy Wisdom, including the overalls once worn by White County’s last public blacksmith, Bud Gentry. Cedar Creek, the wholesale lumber company, recently donated a used chain saw.

It takes a village to move and restore a Pioneer Village, and we appreciate all help!
(The writer is a member of the board and a past president of the White County Historical Society.)

March 1, 2004

A concrete floor has been poured in the north end of the pole barn and that section is being enclosed for storage. We have received a donation of crushed rock from County Judge Bob Parish for the remaining floor of the pole barn. One of our community service workers has access to a small bucket tractor to move it around inside the barn. Once it is spread, the farm machinery can be moved inside out of the weather.

The piers are finally finished under the depot! The house movers have been notified and will set the building down as soon as their schedule permits and the ground is dry enough to drive on. We have removed wallpaper, foam insulation board and linoleum from inside the baggage room. We’ve sanded through layers of paint in the waiting rooms and on the building’s exterior to determine original colors and are now in the process of scraping paint in the waiting rooms.

One of our community service workers has adopted the horse-drawn road grader as his project. He will clean it, replace the wooden tongue and operator’s platform and repaint it. It is rusty but a few remnants of paint indicate that it was originally black. Much of the old machinery was decorated with pin striping and fancy lettered names. There is no way to know if this machine ever had such decoration unless we find an old catalog picture. It will be just black for now.

We have staked out the location for a saw shed to house the buzz saw donated by the Lewis family. It will also house the two-man crosscut saws, a shaving horse and other woodwork displays. We plan on it being a pole barn 20x40 feet. The Lewis family has donated $1,000 to help build it. We are working up a list of construction materials and getting prices. Last summer, while looking at the saw rig, we discovered that the 6HP single-cylinder Witte engine is still free. We turned it all the way around. Wouldn’t it be great if we could get it running again! An identical engine was powering a grist mill at the Ozark Trail Festival in Heber Springs two years ago and was at Parker Pioneer Homestead’s fall homecoming the last two years. Its owner is willing to be a part of our festivals.

Behind the saw shed will be a small corner where we will display the whiskey still and plant bushes to "hide" it. Ironically, this arrangement of displays would place the still just across the creek from the jail. Theparts of thislarge still were under the back shed of the blacksmith shop at the fairgrounds but were never set up as a display. A much smaller one was displayed in the barn. The large copper boiler is in good shape but the two-stage condensation system is badly deteriorated and obviously hasn’t been used in many years. We intend to keep it that way. Sorry, folks – sheriff Pat Garrett wouldn’t want us to demonstrate cooking "the recipe" even for medicinal use.

--Tony Young, WCHS


705 N. Church, Lodi, CA 95240
Grocery Store on Wheels

During the Great Depression in the 1930s very few people in my corner of White County owned a car or truck. They could not afford to buy the gasoline to run it, even if it cost only a few cents per gallon.

Watkins Products

I was born at Holly Springs, between Steprock and Roosevelt. We “went to town” after the strawberry crop was harvested, and in the fall after the cotton crop was harvested. “Town” was Searcy, about 20 miles away, although we did occasionally buy a few things such as kerosene and tobacco products from a local “mom and pop” store owned by Ira and Effie Hicks. We loved going to their store. They had a stock of candy and gum. I remember my father going to town for our winter’s supply of groceries. That consisted of a barrel of flour (four 48-pound sacks), a stand of lard (five gallons), a 100-pound sack of sugar, baking powder, soda, salt, coffee and sometimes dry beans. We grew corn and took it to a gristmill for cornmeal.

Paul Siler, who was reared in my community, owned a grocery store in Bradford and rolled out a grocery store on wheels once a week. It was a truck with a large bed holding compartments along the side and doors on them like cabinet doors. They opened so the customer could decide what he or she could buy. I can remember peanut butter, sliced bread and salad dressing. Those made a lot of sandwiches when there was no meat to be had. Mr. Siler stopped at every house and the customers ran to the truck to purchase whatever they needed and could afford. We looked forward to his weekly visits. He was my father’s cousin, and his wife was my mother’s cousin. I really do not know how long the store on wheels was in operation. If you didn’t have the money he would let you buy on credit.


I have been told by my sister that when the community got electricity Mr. Siler came through the community and sold electric washing machines and electric stoves.

Two other peddlers that traveled our roads were the Raleigh and Watkins peddlers. They had a chicken coop on top of their cars. They would take chickens for pay. My mother always bought pie filling mix and vanilla flavoring from them. Also the “stinky” cure-all liniment that got Watkins started back in 1868. She also bought cocoa and other spices from them. We were reared mostly on food from our land. The entire summer was spent canning everything we could. We always dried some fruit, usually apples and peaches. We had a popcorn and peanut patch, also a cane patch for molasses. The sorghum mill owner kept a toll for his wages.

I am proud of my White County heritage. I have lived in Lodi for 60 years. My children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren are natives of California. When I tell them about all our hard work, they look as if I have made up a story.

Like steamboats, the button makers are now gone from the White River.

A Bradford Girl Visits the Button Factory


As told to her daughter Barbara Weaver

In the early 1930s I went to see Aunt Julie and Uncle Elvis McFarland in Newport. They had come to Bradford in their Model-T to see Mom and Dad, Emma and Virgil Jones, and spend the night. Then Mama let me go home with them to spend a week. I can't tell you how excited I was to get my first ride in a car. We didn't have paved roads then and the trip was rather frightening to me as it had rained and there were deep ruts full of rain water, and that old car would jump up on top of a rut, then slide back down in the grove. Really sloshed you around, and the back seat wasn't plush like nowadays. Felt like you were sitting on a board with some leather stretched over it. There was no bridge over White River at that time so we took a ferry to get into Newport.

They lived in a little unpainted cabin-like house with one bedroom. There was a wide board shelf in the living room, and Aunt Julie had some big feather beds stored on it, and that is where I slept. It was so soft and high, I felt like I was on a cloud.

Uncle Elvis worked at a button factory in Newport, right at the edge of town, which wasn't much then. One day, he took me to the factory to see how they made buttons. There was a line of machines down both sides of the wall that would accommodate six or eight men with just enough elbow space to keep from bumping each other. All the men wore goggles and leather gloves that came partway up their arms. There were tons of mussel shells there, and each man had a pile placed in front of him that he worked from. He would pick up a shell with a pair of tongs made for that purpose. Handles were probably 12 inches long. They would position the shell, pull a handle and the machine would cut the button, all while a steady stream of water was spraying over it. I guess, because the shells are very hard, that was to cool the equipment while cutting. They judged a good cutter by how many buttons he could get from a shell.

Buttons, of course, were very much in demand, as I can remember no zippers then.I always liked to play with the leftover shells as they were so odd looking, and a lot of people decorated graves and flowerbeds in their yards with those shells with the holes punched in them. They sent the raw cut buttons to another factory where they were polished and finished with x amount of holes punched into them and sized, of course.

Making Buttons

One day Uncle Elvis took me to downtown Newport. Talk about being scared! It was full of Negroes (which I hadn't seen much of at Bradford). On our way back home we went by a park (another first for me) and there was a vendor on the street selling Coney Islands. Uncle Elvis bought me one. It was a hot dog with chili on it, and I had never tasted anything so good in my life. What a treat. You have to know that I never had a store-bought hamburger until I got married. (What a country hick, huh?) That just wasn't in our budget.

You would have thought I'd have spent the whole week there, but NO! I got homesick after two or three days and they put me on a bus and sent me home as Uncle Elvis couldn't take off work and I'm sure he didn't want to listen to me crying the rest of the week.

I can't remember if Uncle Elvis got his finger cut off in that factory or not but he had a finger missing and they moved to Bradford after the button factory job. I don’t recall that he worked again but they lived ok. I think Aunt Julie had a little money put away.

Chasing Bed Bugs In March

Washing Day


Little Red River Journal

As I grew up on a farm the month of March turned our lifestyle into a bustle of activity. It came blustering in, bringing with it the first sunny, warm, springlike days we needed to get the year’s work under way. So many chores needed attention it was hard to decide which had top priority on the list.

One thing that was a must to get done in March was the soap making. The weather needed to be warm enough so the soap did not freeze and ruin, but still early enough that the insects did not get into the fat meat scraps that had been saved during the winter to use for the soap.

There were three kinds of homemade soap. One was the kind made with ash hopper lye. It was usually stored in a barrel because it did not harden enough to be cut into bars or chunks. Then there was a cold soap that could be made without cooking. Cold soap required clear strained grease as opposed to meat scraps and was the easiest kind to make. However it was not often we had that much pure grease (lard) to spare for cold soap.

The soap we made most often was the kind we cooked in the wash pot. We dumped the required amount of water, lye and meat scraps into the pot and made a fire just sufficient for low boiling or simmer until the lye ate all of the scraps it would. Then we drew the fire from under the pot to stop the cooking and fished out the parts of meat the lye did not dissolve, such as the bones. This type of soap making required constant stirring during the whole process of cooking and cooling. While cooling the more stirring, whipping and pouring we did the whiter and fluffier the soap was. If we stuck with it religiously, we could have white soap that floated (like Ivory) and if we used a paddle made of sassafras we had soap that smelled good. One thing we tried to avoid with all the stirring was not to get spatters on the bare skin. The soap was called raw soap and until it dried and cured for about three weeks it would burn the skin and make sores just like a heat burn.

With all the soap for cleaning uppermost in our minds our thoughts turned to house cleaning. And in addition to getting rid of the accumulated dust and dirt we had to conquer the bed bugs (or chinches). There were very few rent houses not infested with the pesky things. I don’t know of any pests that multiplied faster or were more immune to all our efforts to get rid of them. Of course we had very little in the way of pesticides to use in those days, just Bee Brand insect dust that smelled awful but killed anything. And coal oil and boiling water that we could not get into all the places where bed bugs lived and laid their eggs.

To slow the bed bugs down and thin them out we took down and outside the beds and all the bedding, emptied the old strawticks and burned the straw. We washed and boiled all the strawticks, quilts, blankets and anything that was used on the beds that was washable. We scalded the bed slats and springs and poured boiling water in all the cracks and crevasses that the water would not ruin. We cleaned all other furniture and used a coal oil-soaked rag to get at places we could not pour water. We cleaned the walls as best we could, sometimes throwing boiling water on them then re-papering. We then scrubbed the floors using the scalding water. We put new straw in the clean ticks and set the bedposts in cans of coal oil and kept the beds and all other furniture away from the walls about two inches. We then could sleep in peace for a few weeks until another batch hatched out then we had the whole bit to do over. All of this seems like such a lot of hard work (and it was) but having bed bugs was somewhat akin to having the itch or plague -- embarrassing to have but impossible not to have, especially for people who moved a lot from house to house. March was not just a time for doing chores, though. The warm days meant I could shed my itchy, scratchy, baggy, uncomfortable long john underwear. How I hated those things! I promised myself that when (if ever) I became my own boss I’d never wear another pair. Another happy moment was when I could take off my shoes and go barefoot on the first warm day. That was not too much change for my feet to adjust to, because by March my shoes were so badly worn they were just make-believe to fool my feet. How I did love the feel of the new grass so cool on my bare feet and if I could find some mud to squish between my toes or wade a branch that was really the life for me. However it only took about two days for me to get many stubbed toes, cuts, skins and bruises that made my feet so sore I could not wear shoes until cool weather again. By that time my feet were so toughened I could wear winter shoes when school started in the fall. I still love the warm spring days that March brings each year.

The Ice Plant

Cool memories on a hot day

When the temperature reached 104 recently I began to reminisce about my childhood days at Beebe in the 1930s before we had home refrigeration or air conditioning. Some of my earliest memories are of the Beebe ice plant. My dad, Lawrence Rice, worked there several years, part of them as manager.

The plant was across the railroad tracks on the south side of Highway 31. There is a service station building there now, next door to Nick’s Garage. The plant had four sections – one large engine room where the machinery was located, a small office, a large room with the freezing tanks, and a storage room where the ice was kept until it was sold.

Behind the plant was a water-cooling tower. You could aways feel a cool mist falling from it. Dad planted a rose garden nearby. The mist kept it watered and he had lovely roses. Also, he made a flowerbed beside the sidewalks and grew a variety of flowers. Dad was into city beautification before it became a popular thing to do.

The plant had several names and owners. At one time it was Associated Utilities, then Southern Ice and later Standard Ice. One of the owners was Robert E. Lee III, the grandson of the Confederate general. He lived in Memphis and seldom came to Beebe. At one time, B.C. Huddleston from Searcy was owner or an official. Later when it was sold again and became Standard Ice, the owner was Harold Kendrick of North Little Rock.

Water was put into cans that were lowered into the tank. When frozen they were pulled up and transferred to a storage room. These cakes of ice weighed 300 pounds. I was always amazed that the men could just use an ice pick to break them into smaller sizes.

My picture of the plant shows the price list on the wall: $1.50 for 300 pounds, 70 cents for 100 pounds, 55 cents for 75 pounds, 35 cents for 50 pounds, 20 cents for 25pounds and a dime for 12½ pounds. They also sold a small piece for a nickel.

Some ice was sold at the dock, but most of it was delivered. The businesses that had ice delivered regularly were meat markets, drug stores, cafes and boarding houses. Any store or service station that sold Coca-Cola had a drink box that had to be iced. One of Coke’s ads said, "Enjoy an Ice Cold Coca-Cola!" The plant also made home deliveries. Regular customers had a card they displayed in their window indicating how much ice they wanted that day. If they didn’t want ice they put the back of the card forward. In those days few people locked their house so the deliveryman just carried the ice inside, using large ice tongs to carry it. He would take the leftover piece of ice out of the icebox and place the new piece in first. With all this dripping, the housewife had to mop after he finished. If the family was not home they would leave the money for the ice on top of the icebox. Some people had their icebox on the back porch. It was convenient for the iceman and since the box had a drip pan, it was not such a mess if you forgot to empty it. Children would follow the ice truck hoping to get a few chips of ice. Most homes that used ice had a cedar ice bucket and an ice pick but if you didn’t have one you used an old dishpan and a knife. Ice was a real treat and most families used it sparingly. We put a piece of ice in the pitcher instead of in each glass. Ice was not wasted. Children would chew on any little sliver. An article in the local newspaper reported about a family reunion where "Iced tea was served throughout the day." We thought that was real extravagant.

Ice Plant

Some rural people would come into town, buy a 300-pound of ice. They’d wrap it in an old quilt and take it home and bury it in sawdust. That way it would last several days. The Fourth of July was one time ice was really enjoyed. Lots of people made ice cream and lemonade. This was the only time many families ever bought ice.

Some of the men I remember working at the ice plant were John Vandament, Thurman Dent, Leslie Roush, Dewitt Strayhorn and J.T. Atkins. I am sure there were others that I don’t remember. In the summer there was lots of work but in the winter only one person worked and that was part time.

When the plant was running someone had to stay on duty. That meant 24 hours a day. Most everything in town closed by 10 p.m. so night duty could have been lonely. However, the law enforcement person usually came by to visit. The men I remember in this job were Slim Adams, Rat Dailey, Arthur Rogers and Perry Head. Many times if a doctor had to make a night call he would stop by and tell the news of a new baby or a death, or just report on someone who was sick. Occasionally, a parent would come out in the night looking for a young person who did not get home when expected.

When ice was purchased at the dock, any kind of transport was used – wagon, truck, bicycle, even a wheelbarrow. Small pieces of ice were tied with a little rope so they could be carried. My husband remembers riding his horse to the plant to get ice. His father, Harley Reynolds, always wanted his ice tea for the noon meal. Some of the men who worked outside would bring big water cans and have a dime’s worth of ice put in to last all day. There was an icehouse at Cabot and the plant at Beebe sent a truck there two or three times a week and they sold the ice.

It is hard to imagine now but there were people who did not have even a nickel to buy a piece of ice to cool a fever when a family member was very sick. Dad never turned anyone away.

In the late ‘30s electric refrigerators became available. The war slowed this down a bit but after the war everyone wanted this appliance. Then businesses began to buy their own icemakers. Refrigerated rail cars and trucks became available to ship produce. So the ice plant was closed. I don’t remember the exact date but the building was torn down in the early ‘50s. Dad found other employment.

My niece and her husband own Sherwood Ice Company today. It is quite different from the old plant. The largest block of ice they make is eight pounds. Most of their ice is cubes sold in bags. Some businesses get deliveries, but most is sold in merchandise boxes. Summer is still a time they work at full capacity. A few plants still make the 300-pound blocks. I have heard they are sold to cool swimming pools.

As long as my memory lasts I shall think of the fun just to step into the cooler on a hot summer day. Another summer treat was to eat a watermelon that had been really chilled at the old ice plant.

Entertaining Ourselves In The 1930s

White County Historical Society

That did kids do for entertainment during the 1930s? Not many could afford store toys so we made sling-shots (sometimes called beanflips) and sometimes we made a wheel and paddle to push. Took a three-foot stick, nailed a flattened and slightly crimped Prince Albert can to one end, took a rim or a hoop from an old wagon wheel hub and you had a nice toy. Also old discarded tires made a good toy. I never had a little Honda or even a bicycle as a kid but I rolled a tire along red dirt roads for many a mile clad only in overalls. Another use for an old tire was to make a tree swing. And still another use was to make a petunia bed. We also made tree swings with a tow sack half filled with hay or sawdust. As a kid I owned two air rifles, sold Cloverine Salve for one and garden seed for one.

On the school ground girls played hop-scotch, drop the handkerchief, and pitch washers. Boys spun tops and shot marbles, part of the time in a big ring and part playing “rolly-hole.” An agate cost more than an “imp” and they were both more valuable than the lowly “doogie.” Each boy’s favorite marble was his “shooting taw.” Boys also played “one and over” and both boys and girls played “shove-up” or “workup” with a twine ball. Also both groups played “pop the whip” and on a line of 40 or 50 kids making a bend, the two or three on the end would become airborne. Then away from school we had corncob fights and rubber gun fights. One just was not a “real” boy until he had been clobbered on the head with a water- and-manure-soaked cob. One Sunday afternoon a group of us boys were having a real shoot-out with rubber guns. We must have been about age 13 or 14. A group of girls walked up and seems like it was Lola who said, “You guys are too old for that.” And Mary chimed in, “Yeah, let’s go for a stroll and walk the train rails.” Houston came back with “Aw come now, fellows, we’re growing up – or haven’t you noticed?” We looked at the girls and then at each other. And Doc or Paul says, “Know something? I think they are right.” So we went and walked the rails toward Cedar Hill. And from that day forward never again would we play rubber guns!

As we grew up we began going to play parties. Here we played games like Musical Chairs, Pin the Donkey, Spin the Plate, and oh yes, don’t forget Three-minute Date. At school we had various programs. There were the Junior and Senior Class plays, there were Halloween and Christmas plays, and there were “stunt nite” programs. Many former students will remember the Arkansas Centennial Pageant we put on in 1936.

Some may wonder why write about the Depression period ‘30s. Like many of you I was a child of the Roaring ‘20s, a teenager of the ‘30s, and a young adult of the early ‘40s war years. We were products of the red clay Ozark foothills of north central Arkansas. Sights, sounds and scents of this region and of this era leave a more indelible imprint in my mind than any other place or time.

The author, R.C. McCourt, is shown in the photo above with some of his second grade playground partners at Pangburn in 1928. From left to right they are Vernon Wallis, Thomas Moss, Rex Humbard and McCourt. Yes, this is the same Rex Humbard.

Front Porch Memories


The following is reprinted from the May-June 2002 edition of Arkansas Farm Bureau Federation’s Front Porch magazine. The author now lives in Eureka Springs.

Our front porch was the forerunner of the entertainment center. Because we had no electricity, running water or any modern conveniences, we had to rely on our imaginations and everyday happenings for entertainment.

The wooden porch swing could possibly hold three people, if one was small. We would pump our legs and try to make it go as high as possible without tumping over.

Oh, to be the first to see a car coming down the road. There weren’t that many cars in a day, and they would usually be traveling pretty slow so that the dust would not overwhelm the occupants.

We would be saying who it was in the car long before they got to our house, and there were times when we did not recognize the car or occupants. That called for a lot of speculation, and not always from the children.

The adults were mighty curious, too, about who could be coming down the road and why.

In addition to playtime, there was always something to can or preserve in the summertime. Since the kitchen was so hot and uncomfortable, we would get our buckets of beans, peas or whatever the canning day was and sit on the porch to do our preparations.

I can’t say we enjoyed snapping beans or whatever there was to do, but we could always make some kind of competition out of it.

In those days, we didn’t pick a little bucketful of vegetables to can in a day – we picked by the bushels. And it was a long process before they were all done.

Another chore we did on the front porch was churning. That really is not a fun thing to do, but it was better on the relatively cooler front porch than in the kitchen.

The mail hack would come by in the late morning and go to town (Beebe) to pick up the mail. And it would return after about 1-½ hours. We would time it, and it was amazing that their schedule would not vary from day to day, and they were always on time.

I grew up in White County on a dusty road between Beebe and Antioch. It is now Highway 31, paved and quite populated.

Old Tastee Freeze

Getting Hooked at the Old Tastee Freeze
Searcy Daily Citizen, November 9, 2002

Do you remember the old Tastee Freez restaurants? There used to be several, and while many are still around probably, I just don’t know of too many. I remember two in Conway during my college days, and while we didn’t travel around in horse and buggy back then, still that was a few years ago. One at the 64-65 junction was great for hot dogs; they offered them several different ways. I tried several of them. The other out across from the Ward School Bus plant was our stop for ice cream.

I know of another Tastee Freez over at McCrory that I suppose is still there, and, of course, the one that I know of that has been around the longest is at Cabot on the old highway going right through town. I had never stopped there … until a few nights ago. We were coming through and just pulled over on a whim. I wasn’t going to get much … then I smelled the onions and peppers cooking on a Philly Cheesesteak someone had ordered. I was hooked. It brought back many other memories.

There were many good nights of going out to Billy Ball’s Frozen Delite which used to be on Race, and that was also my group’s hangout during high school days. Coming back from the Center Theatre in Kensett where you usually got a good movie and a bingo, my parents and I stopping at the Frozen Delite seemed a natural.

Of course, there were many a meal eaten at our house from The Pit Drive-In where you could sometimes get five hamburgers for a dollar, in addition to the best bar-b-q and fried chicken that I can remember. Nick Ran knew how to run an establishment.

Later on, another favorite place was the A&W Drive-In for a root beer float in one of those frosted mugs. That was living. I wonder if it’s a sure sign you’re getting older when you compare things to the past. That’s what I’ve heard anyway, but when I try to watch television today, I find myself invariably comparing today’s offerings to shows like “Wagon Train,” “Highway Patrol,” “Peter Gunn,” “Twilight Zone,” etc. and thinking the ones of today aren’t nearly as good as those.

Chicken Salad at Headlee’s Wasn’t

One of the many jobs I held as a boy growing up in Searcy in the 1930s was “soda jerk” at Headlee’s Drug Store located on the northeast corner of Spring and Market streets. My supervisor and mentor was Bascom Wallis, who ran the soda fountain and tobacco counter. We sold cigars, cigarettes, pipe tobacco, cigarette tobacco and papers, gum and candy.

Early in my career as a soda jerk a man came in and asked for some “bird dog” tobacco. I asked Bascom what that meant. He said, “Look at a package of Granger Rough Cut pipe tobacco.” Sure enough, there was a picture of a bird dog. I looked up “Granger” in the dictionary and found it to mean “gentleman farmer.” I supposed all gentlemen farmers had shotguns and hunting dogs and smoked pipes.

In the soda fountain we offered milk shakes, malted milk, fountain Coca Cola, ice cream sodas in all flavors, phosphates, limeades and a big favorite – Bromo Seltzer that was mixed and consumed at the counter. We also offered ice cream in several flavors in cones or dishes as well as our specialty and moneymaker – hand packed ice cream in one-pint cartons.

We toasted sandwiches to order such as bacon and tomato, pimento cheese, tuna fish salad, baked ham and the favorite – chicken salad. To make the chicken salad we opened a can of tuna fish and held it in a sieve under the hot water faucet to wash away the oil. This took place in the back, of course.

Everyone loved our “chicken salad.” We cooked the bacon on a kitchen range in the back. That’s also where we baked the ham. I was pleased when Bascom showed me how to score the ham, rub in the brown sugar and place a clove in each scored square.

Curb service was a pain, but it was part of the job. It went like this: the customer would park and honk. I would go out and take the order, come back in, fill the order, take it out on a tray and attach it to the car and come back in. When finished, the customer would honk again, and I would go out to pick up the money and tray. About half the time I would have to make the proper change inside and take it out to the customer. Occasionally I would get a 10-cent tip. Sometimes the customers would call me out with a honk and advise that I had forgotten the package of cookies, one chocolate and one vanilla that we gave with each shake or malt. Another trip back in and out.

As part of the soda fountain we had a stainless steel combination sink and corrugated drainboard. This is where we washed, rinsed and drained all the glassware, plates, knives, spoons, forks and mixer cups. All items were wiped dry with clean towels and stacked neatly on the mirrored back bar. At last we were ready to go home. Au contraire! We still had to scour the sinks and drainboard, hose down the duckboards and sweep and wet mop behind the soda fountain and tobacco counters. For the scouring chore we used stiff brushes and loaded them with Lava Soap. The drainboard was splashed with boiling water and sprinkled liberally with Old Dutch Cleanser. Then came the backbreaking rubbing with the Lava-loaded brushes. After rinsing with boiling water if all stains were gone we could dry the sinks and drainboard and head for home which, for me, was four city blocks north.

The uninsulated building that housed Headlee’s Drug Store faced west, which meant near intolerable heat in the summer, especially for the tobacco counter that was near the front. In due course the owner, Frank Headlee, had large package air conditioning units installed. The resulting exorbitant electric bills led to purchase and installation of a 10-kw Witte diesel engine-powered electric generator. When it was tested and operational down came the Arkansas Power & Light Company service wires. The generator ran for many months.

I enjoyed being a soda jerk and cherish the memories of Bascom Wallis and Headlee’s Drug Store.