Monday, November 28, 2011

Yellville, Arkansas

While passing through a small Ozark town, it may surprise some folks to know its' history of times gone by. Recently, I came across this article while doing some research on a family member and thought it was worthy to share. The story is a small town that I am fond of, due to the fact that it was the first place I was a school teacher at...Yellville, Arkansas.

This story came from a traveling reporter who worked for The Sun in New York City. The date was September the 2nd, 1894.  I have transcribed it word for word and did not attempt to correct the grammar or structure. It all is a testimony to our Ozark's History.

Religion is General, Whiskey Is Not Sold
and Populism Is Unheard Of.

Yellville, Ark., Aug. 21. - Yellville is in the very heart of the Ozark Mountains and is the center of a little world bordered on the north by Missouri and embracing the valleys of the White, Buffalo, and Little Red Rivers, and the ranges between them. Here several generations have lived and died, undisturbed by the great arteries of commerce or by the noisy hum of the mill or factory. Scores of the people now living in Marion county, who are past the age of 21, have never looked upon a train of cars.

Yellville is the county seat of Marion county, and Is reached by an stage coach,which runs from West Plains, Mo., the nearest railroad station, seventy miles to the northward. This trip is over a rough but very interesting mountain road, and the stage is drawn by four or six horses. It is the oldest town in northern Arkansans. It was in 1833 that the first cabin was built on the bunk of Clear Creek, about twelve miles from its confluence with White River. A trackless wilderness, with few habitations, then extended over the region between the Osage River and Little Rock and the St. Francis River and the Cherokee Nation.

The old Kentuckian who first settled here was a trapper and a coon hunter, whose reputation extended throughout the region. He raised a little patch of corn and tobacco before another white man ventured near him, and as the settlement was established, his cabin become a sort of trade center, and he was soon buying the skins and furs of other settlers, trading them powder, tobacco, salt, hog meat, and the very few things which went to make up their necessaries of life. He died, and his boys soon became prominent in the political affairs of the times, and established a town which they named after Gov. Yell, one of the first Governors of the State. The 700 inhabitants of Yellville are nearly all natives of Arkansas, and most of them from Marlon county. A few men have drifted in from the adjoining States on business ventures, and are likely to live and die here.

One of the first experiences which befell the correspondent of The Sun, after arriving in this town, came in a search for a barber. One was found whose shop occupied a corner in the office of the most prominent physician of Yellville, This man of science was present during the tonsorial performance, and sat on an empty cracker box sawing away at "Arkansaw Traveler" on an old fiddle with only three strings. The combination of the barber and the musician was sufficient to give a stranger the conviction that the region was the abiding place of outlaws and evil doers, and that the general moral tone of the inhabitants was low.

But with all this primitiveness the visitor will soon discover that the people in this region are honest, scrupulously so. They are also very religious, and a large proportion of the population are devout church members. The Stale laws make it a misdemeanor to do any work on Sunday. They are also very strict in regard to the sale of intoxicating liquors. Both laws are strictly enforced, and in all this country it would require a constable and a search warrant to find any anti-snake bite. It is very probable that the village druggist keep a small amount for emergencies, but it requires the sworn statement of your physician that it is necessary to save your life, and that no other medicine can be used with safety, before you can get even an eye-opener. When, a few year ago, the Methodist Episcopal Church. South, built a college here, some of the leading citizens went before the Legislature at Little Rock and passage of a law forever prohibiting the sale of liquor within six miles of the college.

These conditions have not always prevailed in this region. About twenty years ago it was a safe retreat for all kinds of outlaws. The saloons were headquarters for the bandits and horse thieves. Not a week passed without a man or two being killed. Finally a mass meeting was called, at which the citizens declared they would take the law into their own hands. Notices were served on the saloon keepers to close immediately, and on the bandits to leave. These notices were quickly compiled with, and from that day to this there has not been a place within the county where a drink of whiskey could be bought.

Marion county is thoroughly Democratic. The Democrats here know no political enemy but the Republican party; they have no knowledge of  Populist " reformers;" they wonder at the Coxey craze, and when the regulars were sent to quell the Chicago Anarchist, an old gray-beard who had fought under Johnston and Hood through the Confederacy, said: "Wouldn't it be funny if the President would have to call old ‘confeds’ to whip Altgeld  and Illinois back into the Union. "

Work Cited:
“People of the Ozarks.” The Sun 62.2 (02 Sept. 1892): 10. New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundation. United States Library of Congress, Washington D.C. 15 Nov. 2009