Tuesday, January 6, 2015

January 1918: White River Frozen at Clarendon

[This image was originally posted by Gary Shaw (with Betty Edwards Norwood) on Facebook and later shared there by John Coker, Vickie Schwab, and others.]

The White River at Clarendon, AR: January 1918

"This is a 1918 photo of a solid White River at Clarendon in January of that year, frozen when temperatures ran 13 below zero.  The River was solid enough to cross with wagons and horses and cars crossing at Clarendon that winter when the biggest snowstorm to hit Arkansas in the 19th century left no region untouched in Arkansas.  Little Rock was buried in 19.4 inches of snow.  Other parts in the northern part like Searcy had up to 30 inches." Facebook note.

This is the first image I've seen that verifies the legend heard from time to time by all of us as children growing up there in the 1940s and 50s.  I can recall Russell Marrs stories of it from his childhood. DPW

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Tindall-Prange Store and the Port of Crockett's Bluff

Two additional beautifully preserved images  that has surfaced and been forwarded to me by Jim Prange, along with some detailed comments posted by John Cover on Facebook.  The originals, as Jim notes, were in the possession of a descendant of the Tindall Family and were pass on to him by Glen Mosenthin, the editor of the Grand Prairie Historical Society Journal. "The Prange Bros. referred to here are the four sons of Henry Prange: Theodore, August, Edmund, and George.  i would place the photo circa 1915, almost definitely between the years 1908-1923."

Tindall-Prange Store late 1800s or early 1900s

As John Cover notes, before its steady decline in population over the past half century or so, Crockett's Bluff was once a relatively "hopping little town" in the early decades of the twentieth century.  This impressive structure, with what appears to be a freshness of construction, he assumes probably stood, as Jim Prange states, a little south of the present Schwab store building.  There was, as John also notes, and even I remember in the 1950s and 60s, a Prange store just to the north of the Schwab store.

The Port of Crockett's Bluff: Sunday morning,  March 18? 1917

The above image, unlike so many Jim Prange and others have gleaned from their family archives, leaves little mystery, since someone has inscribed the details on the image itself, complete with assurance that the water in the background is the White River: "Prange Bros. and Co. unloading boat load of feed on Sunday morning" followed by the date. It clearly reflects, as he notes, "how busy Crockett's Bluff was at one time."

The image, like so many before it,  reveals much  about "the port" at the bend of the White River that was gone when those of us who were born and grew up there during the 1940s.  The following, passed along by Jim from the archives of the DeWitt Era Enterprise, clearly depicts a relatively thriving, even prosperous community -- essential evidence of the origins of rice farming in Arkansas County.

PRANGE BROTHERS HAVE LARGEST RICE FARM - Purchase of Tindall's 2,000 acres give 6,000 acre farm.

    "The purchase of A. A. Tindall's 2,000 acre rice farm from which adjoins it's holdings, makes Prange Brothers Company of Crocketts Bluff the owner of the largest rice farm in the state one of the largest in the world.  The farm now contains 6,000 acres, 5,000 of which is rice land and the balance timber.  The company expects to plant 4,200 acres of rice this season and about 2,000 acres has already been seeded.
    There are 18 tenants on the farm, each having charge of from 160 to 400 acres.  A single canal system supplies the land with water, which is pumped from White River by two large plants with a total of about 800 horsepower.  Two smaller auxiliary pumping plants are located on Sunset Lake.  A commissary supplies the tenants and employees; there are huge warehouses for storing grain and a barge line brings in fuel and supplies and delivers the rice to market.  Pikes will reach the farm from two directions, when the new system of roads for Arkansas is completed.
    Prange Brothers Company, Incorporated, is composed of C. H. Prange [Henry], George and August Prange.  The Pranges have been engaged in the rice industry at Crocketts Bluff for a number of years."

These figures fascinate those of us who were born into this community when much or most of this world was gone.  Particularly "Pikes will reach the farm from two directions, when the new system of roads for Arkansas is completed."  I can only barely remember (I think) when Rt. 153 was graveled.  It would not be paved until well into the late 1950s.

Born there in 1935, I can never remember there being any "settlement" of out buildings on the "east" side of the river, so the image surprises.  The paddle wheel steam boat is apparently pre-Mary Woods II with no stack of any kind, although it is obviously powerful enough to push a substantial barge of feed (we assume from the inscription).  One assumes this was near the bend of the river before the chute for loading grain was built by the Prange Co.  The dozen or so flat bed wagons reflect a major operation.  If this is feed for livestock in addition to the hay that was bailed, it reflects an operation of impressive size.  Of course, those of us who grew up in the 30s-50s  would have known little or nothing about horse/mule wagons so prominent  here. Those decades just before tractor-driven everything.

When I followed "Old Buck" down George Kline's cotton middles a mile or two west of the Bluff in the late 1940s, followed by Mr. Kline and his favored "Lightning" harnessed before a cultivating plow, we hardly realized we were among the last of a horse-drawn tradition.  In springs and summers to follow, however, I would perform similar operations in the driver's seats of seeming endless tractors on Graves, Anderson, Rush, Bullock, Currie, and other farms extending south and west of the Bluff.  Although I never became wealthy on my $5.50 per day (sun-up to sun-down) salary (actually $2.50 plowing cotton middles) the work wasn't a complete waste.   During a summer between my last high school years I would go to a summer 4H Club "camp" at the University at Fayetteville where I would win the tractor driving contest!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Hog Roundup 1931

According to the Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture, folks in Arkansas have the Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto to thank for bringing swine to Arkansas in 1541.  Their offspring remain throughout the state today.  While in the 1930s they served, in both their wild and domesticated varieties, as a welcomed source of protein for folks in Crockett's Bluff, today they have in their feral form become a statewide nuisance and enemy of the general natural environment.

Among several rare photographs passed along to me some time ago by Hallie Keithley - still to this date the oldest current resident of the Bluff -  reflect life in the 1930s generally and more specifically life on the River. 

The image below is especially rare and historically interesting for both the subjects in the fore and background.  Thanks to the notes neatly inscribed on the back of the picture by Flavelia (Bela) Kline, both the husband of one of the figures in what appears to be a make-shift barge and for most of the years of my youth the post mistress from a room in the Kline house.  

George and John Kline are returning from the final day of the wild hog roundup in 1931:   "Geo and John Kline leaving Monroe Co. on the last day of the hog round up, Jan. 15, 1931.  The Steamer Robert H. Romander(?) coming up the river with 2 barges of logs 200,000 ft.  It took her 15 min to make Crockett's Bluff Bend in White River."

The Kline Brothers

Charlie McDonald's House Boat
Excellent image of what appears to be two houseboats abutting each other.  Although Charlie McDonald was not someone I remember, his name was frequently mentioned in the Woodiel household.  Could the boy in what appears to be "cowboy" attire be his son Gus, pictured elsewhere on this site hanging from the water tower as a young boy who would later loose one of his legs in World War II.  "Im sure this picture was taken down at Mattox Bay because that's where the McDonalds tied up all the time."- Hallie Keithley

CC:Riley Pool, Geo. Kline, Emmet Yokem, Chas. McDonald and ?
Then names in the caption are from Hallie's notes.  Only George Kline (all white in center background) I can positively identify because he gave me my first job working with him in his cotton field west of the Bluff near Voss Lake.  The scene is a shady spot down on the nearest bank to the water on the White River.  Why do I assume it's Sunday or a holiday.  The white shirts and Mr. Pool's necktie, I guess.  Must be early spring, because the water's "up" with little bank showing.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

A Grandmother I Never Met

After examining closely these images, I'm astonished by my youthful grandfather's awesome gaze and my grandmother's apparently innocent youthfulness. After applying our cousin Alice (Woodiel) Craft's records to their histories, I will never again neglect to remember and honor my grandmother on Mother's Day or any other day when I'm reminded of just how harsh life can be and how it must surely have been to Alice and Fate in those hills around Lonoke County AR during those first decades or so of the twentieth century.
Alice Catherine Almond Woodiel
My grandparents: Alice (1876-1926) and Lafayette (1871-1956) Woodiel.  She (Alice Catherine Almond) and he (William Lafayette) were married 9 July 1891 at Lonoke AR. At the time, if the records are accurate and my math correct, he was about 20 and she about 15. Their first child, born in 1892 was an unnamed son that died apparently shortly after his birth. Their second child, Viola (perhaps the child pictured with her father) was born the following year, 6 July 1893.
In her 35 years of marriage Alice would give birth to 13 children. The first, a son born in 1892 would die during his first year and would be unnamed. A daughter Elizabeth, born in 1900, would die before her second year. Another son (1910) and a daughter (1911) would be unnamed as well as her last (1914) listed as "Child" Woodiel.
Grazing over the length of their life spans I can't avoid contemplating our present fuss and preoccupation with health care and longevity. Of Alice and Lafayette's eight children that survived to adulthood, Viola would die at 17 and Fred at 25. Winnie would be killed in a
William Lafayette Woodiel
storm at 31. Mertie at 43 from cancer. Paul would die primarily from alcoholism at 58. Only three would survive to what today we call retirement age, Victor only barely at 67. My uncle John would live to be 74 and only my father Allie would live into his 80s, dying at Crockett's Bluff AR at the age of 87.
I'm compelled to wonder just how different the families of those of their direct line might be today had there been even a make-shift system of preventive health care available to poor folks during those year.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Walter Allen "Hoolie" Bowermaster 1932-2014

I have my former classmate Eunice M. (Ward) Brown to thank for passing along this program of the memorial service for Walter Bowermaster whom we both remember even though he was two years ahead of us at St. Charles High School.

Because he was three years older, Walter was not a close friend of mine, but he was one of a number of older boys we younger boys respected, because in those days they were worthy of respect.  The commonplace social plague known today as bullying was both rare and short lived in those days at St. Charles High School, as I recall..  Older boys were generally charged by their parents and other adults in the larger community with the responsibility of "looking out" for younger boys.  To behave otherwise, was, well, simply disgraceful.

Regardless of your class, however, in the "high school" of St. Charles in those days, we were generally a closely knit group with relatively little class "rank," with perhaps the exception of seniors, of course.  Walter's fellow juniors included (as pictured in the yearbook) Jack Dempsey, Ruth Tuck, Jimmy Horton, Neva Graves, Doris Dawson, Charles Bisswanger, Leo Padgett, and Charles West.

This same year I was in the freshman class with twenty-one classmates.  Sixteen of us would graduate the spring of 1953. - DPW

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Vicki and Darrell and Schwab Store Museum

The Store after it was closed (1990s?) with the Post Office Attached: Vickie (Schwab) Gardner Post Mistress
Over the more than half century since I last lived in Crockett's Bluff I've often been asked, after I tell people who inquire where I was born and grew up, just how many people lived in the Bluff.  My reply is always an indefinite "it depends."  I then go on to explain since there were no acknowledged city limits, the number of its residents would depend just how far down Rt. 153 in either direction one wished to go before you cease your census.  To the south it would be when you found the first folks who claimed they lived in St. Charles or DeWitt -- about 10 or 15 miles.  In the other direction toward Stuttgart, perhaps twice as far.

This old notion came to mind recently when during my most recent visit to Arkansas County a few months ago I stopped by Schwab's Store where I was greeted by Darrell Gardner, the son in law of Eddie Schwab who established and presided over the most general of general 
stores in the areas for decades.   More of a museum of sorts today, having been closed as a business in the late 1980s, the store remains, thanks to the care of Vicki and Darrell Gardner, a solid and spacial structure housing, amongst its eclectic collection, the original anvil used by the elder blacksmith Sebastian Schwab whom we all recall from our childhoods in the 1930s, as well as Darrell's recently acquired practically new Model A Ford and an assortment of tractors.

Darrell with his New Toy - Oct. 2013

DPW and Vicki (Schwab) Gardner - Oct. 2011

DPW and Darrell  - Oct. 2011 - a true pot-belly

Sebastian's Major Tool

Darrell and Vicki might properly be labeled the last true residents of Crockett's Bluff proper at the site of the long closed Schwab's Store that rests - as the Google Earth view below indicates - near the former residence of Cora Prange Swindler where Rt. 153 turns westward from the banks of the White River.

Even Model Tractors Welcome

Everywhere the stuff of memories underneath Eddie's fan belt assortment.

Friday, February 28, 2014

The Water Tower: The Bluff's Central Landmark

The Prange Brothers Water Tower


When the Prange Brothers established a water tower in the late 1920s or early '30s apparently to insure fire protection for the nearby warehouses they had constructed overlooking the bluffs of the White River for which Crockett's Bluff was named, it became the trademark for the then lively settlement for at least the next fifty years.  Visible clearly from more than five miles southward where Rt 153 intersected Rt 1 - known informally in the 1950s as Boyd's Corner - it dominated the skyline.  There was nothing to equal it for many miles.  Legend has it one who climbed to its circular balcony joined a relatively small group of folks adventurous and courageous enough to make the climb.

The oldest known images that survive  - published first in David Prange's Crockett's Bluff As I Remember It - were made from its walkway platform by his cousin Louis Prange in 1930.  "It stood as if a sentinel," writes David, "watching over the village of Crockett's Bluff, giving direction to those searching for the village while, at the same time, nurturing the two mammoth steam engines which powered the pumps that lifted water from the river onto the rice fields of the White River prairie."

These images were posted elsewhere on this site several years ago: Crockett's Bluff: A 1930s View From Above.

View to the North along the River.

Looking north shows a relatively flourishing community on the banks of the White River: the Prange sawmill, the Lutheran church, and the Poole store.

View to the South out toward the prairie.

On the right Schwab's Store and the wagon shed, and on the left the Inman store and, most significant, the irrigation canal that extended out across the prairie and the rice fields and served as a "swimming hole" for every child in the Bluff well up into the 1960s and 70s.  It was where we learned to swim.

In his memoir David Prange goes on to describe the bravery required and the rite of passage acknowledged by those managing to make it to the top of the water tower, approximately one hundred feet above grade.  "I envied those that accomplished that feat, not for their bravery, which I considered to be bordering on stupidity, but for the view they had witnessed.  What a magnificent sight that must have been."  Successful adventurers were plied with questions: "Could you see beyond the north bend in the river? . . . Could you see Voss Lake? . . . With each 'yes' I would think, without daring to repeat the thought audibly, 'It's not possible, I don't believe it!"

For reasons that are not clear, a decision was made by August Prange, the last descendant to remain on the property,  to dismantle the tower sometime in the late 1970s or early 80s.  So, we are left with these images.

The Prange and Schwab Stores

The most noteworthy view that I've come across (above) that follows those made by Louis Prange was made by Eddie Schwab himself of his store and the area around it - the Prange store in the foreground and the gardens and out buildings, including the blacksmith forge shed of his father Sebastian Schwab and the gardens and field beyond.

View westward behind the Schwab and Prange Stores

Like so many other images on this site I have Jim Prange to thank for this view of the area behind the Schwab store also obviously made from the water tower by an unknown photographer he gleaned from his family collection.  Both Vickie (Schwab) Gardner and Peggy (Schwab) Browning have memories of residing in the small cottage at the left during the early days of their marriages.

Jim Prange as a wee lad in the l950s in the area above

Scan of a dusty slide I made in the 1970s