Monday, July 18, 2011

Junior & Viola Peters

Even such is time, which takes in trust
Our youth, our joys, and all we have,
And pays us but with age and dust,
Who in the dark and silent grave
When we have wandered all our ways
Shuts up the story of our days,
And from which earth, and grave, and dust
The Lord will raise me up, I trust.
Epitaph by Sir Walter Raleigh
As I stated in the last blog, I enjoy going to old cemeteries, but I must admit I am also fond of another attraction…Old Jails.  In the past, I have written about the first Ozark County Jail that was two stories high and only accessible by a ladder with its' own dungeon. For that story, please go to this link…Sweet Youth, Hot Lead, and Bitter Revenge - Part 3
Furthermore, this is not a detailed history of past Ozark County Jails, but it’s an account that runs much deeper than that.
I was asked this past week to speak back in my hometown of Gainesville, Missouri. While preparing my notes for the lecture, I also wrote a list of things I wanted take on my small trip. One of the first items on my list was a camera because I wanted to take pictures of some of my favorite places. The first subject on my list was the old Ozark County Jail, situated by the old Gainesville City Hall. This place has a small place of affinity in my heart and memory.  How can a jail be a fond memory?

The Old Ozark County Jail
in Gainesville, Missouri.
Well, there’s a small story to this; so, let me digress for just a moment and talk about two people from Gainesville, Junior & Viola Peters. This is not a list of their genealogy; it far more important than that. This is a tribute & small chronicle to the character of two people that made a world of impression on me in the Ozarks. The meaning of the old county jail and other things will all fall together with a brief account about these two people. Though they are not with us today, I believe a brief narrative about these two unassuming and Godly people will draw the strings together and secure a representation of why this old jail holds memories for me.

As a child, my dad or mom would, in the summer, take me to the home of Junior & Viola Peters; Viola would watch me in the summers while my parents worked. Viola was the other lady to babysit me, when my Granny Anderson was unavailable. The Peters lived on T Highway, about 3 miles west of Mammoth, Missouri. They both went to my family church, Mammoth Assembly of God. Moreover, since they went to church there, I figured, they must be family somehow or somewhere near it. For years I called Viola, “Aunt Viola,” as a term of endearment, even though she was not my aunt. As I grew older, I took up the custom of calling her “Sister Viola” at church because that’s how everybody greeted everyone else at church, out of respect, if they were not blood related. It was always “Brother” or “Sister.” Brother Junior & Sister Viola were always faithful to come to church, and they would always sit in the same place, on the right hand side…four rows back.

I remember Sister Viola singing at church her favorite songs, such as: “Three Old Rusty Nails,” “In the Garden,” and my favorite, “Little Green Pills.” Viola could always make the best sweet pickles; and for some reason, I remember she always had plenty of cottage cheese for lunch. To this day, every time I eat sweet pickles or cottage cheese, I think of Viola.
Junior Peters was the Chief of Police for Gainesville and always had a distinctively low and raspy voice that was reminiscent of a lumberjack; yet, he was always a kind spoken gentleman. Additionally, he always nervously rattled his keys or coins in his pockets. Brother Junior used this distinct habit of “jingling” while he sang solos at church. He would come up behind the pulpit and apologize that he couldn’t sing that well, but we all knew it was from his heart. He would begin singing one of his old standbys like, “Turn Back My Child;” yet all the while, my Aunt Phyllis Long would be shaking her head at the piano trying to figure out what key it was in. 
Turn back my child
For the way is very steep
The things you'll find out there
You cannot keep
The way is filled with thorns
And the things you'll find are cheap
Turn back my child, come home with me
His songs usually had three verses. By the time he was on the last verse or chorus and almost finished, Aunt Phyllis had finally figured out the key Brother Junior was singing in. We all knew at this point, the song was over, but that’s how things were, and the people were blessed by his sincere heart.  
Eventually, Junior & Viola sold their house on T Highway and moved to Gainesville. Their house in Gainesville was only two block above the town square and situated catty-corner across two old landmarks, the old Gainesville City Hall & the old Ozark County Jail. The city hall was converted into a shirt factory for a while, and my mom worked there.
As a child at their house, Junior would always come home for lunch. After lunch, he would sit in his favorite chair, and I would again ask him to sing “Turn Back My Child.” Sometimes, he would open up his Bible, fumble through the pages for a tattered piece of paper with lyrics, and reciprocate my request.
Junior also played Santa Claus on the square in Gainesville. I remember one time my dad and I were in Don Eslinger’s hardware store on the square,and Junior walked in dressed as Santa. Somehow, behind that beard, he knew my name and gave me a candy cane.  But, it was his voice that gave it all away. When he walked out the door, I turned to my dad and told him that was not really Santa Claus…but Junior Peters. I could tell by his voice.
Since Junior was the Chief of Police, he always joked with me that he could throw the bad criminals into the old county jail because he had the keys. In the afternoons, I would walk barefooted in the Peters’ yard and peer through their chain linked fence at the buildings across the street. The one building that always seemed to beg for exploration was the old vacant county jail.  
The view from the corner of Junior & Viola Peters’ house
overlooking the old Gainesville City Hall &
 the old Ozark County Jail below to the right.
Looking up the hill at the old county jail.
One day Junior took me across the street from his house, put me up on his shoulders, and let me peer through the steel grate placed in the jail house window. He would talk about the hard times for men who were incarcerated in its’ bulwarks , and the men who guarded them. It was also this jail that was in my mind when Junior would talk to me about men who were not just in a physical prison, but they were bound by a prison in their heart. He would give a small cockeyed grin, jingle his keys, and say there was only One who had the real keys to man’s heart...Jesus. He would also joke about having to train for a new job when he arrived in heaven because of the lack of crime that will be there.
Jail window with the steel grate.
So, there you have it. Every time I see sweet pickles or cottage cheese, I think of Aunt Viola. Every time I hear jiggling keys, see a Santa Claus, or spy an old jail, I think of Junior Peters. I grew up always knowing and loving Junior & Viola Peters. Though no books will probably ever be written about them, it was people like this who helped create a haven of rest wherever they trod.
Last night I was sharing with my son about this particular blog, and he stated we don’t find many people or times like that these days. Nevertheless, I believe we still have that same innate capacity inside of every one of us. I believe the “key” to this Ozark generosity & living is still knowing the One who owns the keys to our hearts. So I ask you, Dear Reader, whether you live in the Ozarks or not, why shouldn’t we live with the saving faith toward God, sincerity toward one another, and generosity to all?  I believe in doing so, we once again bring alive the memory of those passed on and sample a part of our Ozarks’ History.
Work Cited:
“A Queer Missouri Jail. How Prisoners Fare When Incarcerated at Gainesville.” Aberdeen Daily Press 4.193 (22 Mar. 1890): 1. New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundation. United States Library of Congress, Washington D.C. 15 Nov. 2009 from
Raleigh, Sir Walter (29 Nov 2004). Epitaph. Poetry X, Edited by Jough Dempsey. Retrieved 18 Jul. 2011 from .

Slaughter, Henry & Hazel (1976). Turn Back My Child. Benson Sound.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Talburt / Casey Cemetery

Exploring old cemeteries has been a favorite past time & hobby for me.

I recently came across an old newspaper article talking about one of my favorite small cemeteries in Baxter County, Arkansas, The Old Talburt/Casey Cemetery. As it was, at one time, neglected over the years, it has been recently groomed under the leadership of Captain Jeff Lewis of the Baxter County Sheriff's Office Inmate Restoration Program. Captain Lewis has also begun a blog on the old cemeteries he is working on. It is located at: I urge you to visit this link & share it. Maybe, you could share this link & idea with you local sheriff's office.
The Old Talburt/Casey Cemetery is located at the corner of Cone & Crosswell in Mountain Home, Arkansas.

I also took a picture of the laminated place card placed by the wonderful team headed by retired Lt. Col. Lynn D. Baker. Lynn is the area coordinator for the Arkansas Gravestones Project. They have recently finished completing the project of photographing & documenting all 21,800 gravestones in Baxter County, Arkansas.
Lynn will also be speaking at our upcoming Arkansas Genealogy Roadshow.

View Gravestone Photos from across Arkansas
Click this link to see the Arkansas Gravestones Project.
In in the following article, I have also placed the old pictures from the newspaper along with current pictures. All this is a tribute to the local people are preserving our Ozarks' History.

The Baxter Bulletin - April 4, 1974
Casey Cemetery holds history.
A segment of Mountain Home’s history almost obliterated by time is the old Casey (or Talburt) Cemetery, located in the east part of town adjacent to the Indian Creek subdivision.

The one-acre cemetery was once part of a farm whose owners included Dr. J. M. Casey, son-in-law of Major Jacob Wolf at Norfork and this area’s first white settler. The farm was purchased by Isaac Morris in 1919 and acquired by his son, Robin Morris, in 1934. 

1969 Newspaper Picture of the unattended cemetery.

2011 Picture after Captain Jeff Lewis' Inmate Team 
worked on the old Casey/Talburt Cemetery.
Outstanding Work.
The burial place of many members of the Talburt family, the cemetery also contains graves of others who were among this community’s earliest citizens. Dating back to the early 1800’s, it has not been used for a number of years and Robin Morris can recall only four persons being buried there since his family acquired the farm. The cemetery is overgrown with trees and brush throughout the older sections, and some tombstones have fallen, victims of time or vandalism. Many of the markers are uncarved field stones, offering no information about the people buried beneath them.

Among the stones with still legible legends is a broken one marking the grave of William and Elizabeth Hancock. It is believed that they were the parents of Robert M. Hancock, Baxter County’s second clerk and recorder.

Among the older headstones is in memory of “Levisa, wife of Robert McCrary,” who was born March 1, 1801, and died Sept. 6, 1865.

1969 Newspaper Picture of
Levisa McCrary's Tombstone.

2011 Picture of
Levisa McCrary's Tombstone.
A stone which appears to be hand hewn and carved bears the following legend: “Here Rests Pulina H. Lyles, wife of A. T. Lyles and daughter of E. W. and Mrs. E. W. Brown, who was born and raised in Ware County, N. C. and departed this life Sept. 26, 1864.”
1969 Newspaper Article Picture
of Pulina H. Lyles' Tombstone.
2011 Picture of
Pulina H. Lyles' Tombstone.

Among the Talburts buried in the cemetery are Samuel T. Talburt,  "Uncle" S. Walter Talburt, Fanney Talburt, Mary J. and W. B. Talburt, Jennie Talburt and Edward M. Talburt. (The stones reflect the spelling followed by various members of the family.)

1969 Newspaper Picture of
Samuel T. Talburt's Tombstone.

2011 Picture of
Samuel T. Talburt's Tombstone.

A twisted oak sapling bows over the resting place of William Conditt (Feb. 10, 1839-July 31, 1908) who fought with Tarall’s Battery in the Confederate Army.
2011 Picture of
William Conditt's Tombstone.

Works Cited:
“Casey Cemetery Holds History.” The Baxter Bulletin 74.28 (4 Apr., 1974) B-1. Baxter County Microfilm Archive. Donald W. Reynolds Library, Mountain Home, AR. 15 June, 2011.