Sunday, August 24, 2014

Powhatan Courthouse, Lawrence County, Arkansas

A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to visit one of my favorite historical places in Arkansas. It is a small community called Powhatan, but it once was the county seat of Lawrence County, Arkansas, and elegantly situated on the Black River.  If anyone is looking for a nice day trip in the Ozarks, this is true destination place. Tours are given, and it's also a great place for historical & genealogical research for the Ozarks due to the fact that the The Northeast Arkansas Regional Archives (NEARA), a branch of the Arkansas History Commission, is also located here. NEARA houses many historical documents including sources from the old courthouse.

This park also has a special place in my heart due to the fact I had family living in the small community of Strawberry, Arkansas, only 17 miles away. By historical records, they would often frequent these grounds. After visiting here, it takes very little imagination to see a once thriving region with this locality as its hub of interest.

The courthouse construction was completed in 1888. Over time, the county seat was moved to Walnut Ridge, Arkansas, and the building slowly began to fall into disarray. The Lawrence County Historical Society, working with the Lawrence County Development Council, saved the courthouse, as well as important territorial and early statehood records, and began a partial restoration process that was completed in 1970. Ownership was transferred to Arkansas State Parks in 1979, and additional renovations have restored the building to its early appearance.

Approaching the Powhatan State Park.

1840s Ficklin-Imboden Log House
The Commercial Building circa 1887–88.

The 1890 Male and Female Academy.

  Remnants of an old Suspension Bridge & location of the Ferry Landing across the Black River.
Lawrence County Courthouse, 1888.

Lawrence County Courthouse, 1888.
The County Safe inside the Courthouse
The 1st flight of stairs leading to the second floor.
The 2nd  flight of stairs leading to the second floor.  Notice the use of ambient sunlight used to illuminate the passage.
Lawrence County Jail.

The spacious courtroom fully restored to its former glory. Notice the dumb-waiter in the corner to bring up whatever is needed for the 1st floor.
View of the Judge's desk and the chairs for the jury.



 Lawrence County Jail.

Lawrence County Jail.

Entrance to the jail.

Double-Chamber Locking Door for 6 Men. 
Straw Bedding &Hammocks Not Included.

6 Man Jail Cell.   Hammocks were provided to help stack them like a cord of wood.
2 Man Cell.  No bunk bed...only straw was provided to sit & sleep on.   A bucket was provided to do your business in.   It was needful to have a good family because they were the ones to provide you food.

I decided to go in and have a look.
 Enjoy your Ozarks' History

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Take the Long Way Home

    This past spring I had the opportunity to go to Little Rock. Normally, the driving time is about 2 1/2 to 3   hours, but many times I have a strong compulsion to take alternate routes between here & there to break up the monotony. These times of randomness have times have often paid of by going down a different road.  

    This past year I have become fascinated with some of the pioneers of the Ozarks and enjoy seeing what they left behind. One such person is Lt. Col. James Adams "J. A." Schnable, C.S.A.

Lt. Col. James Adams Schnable
    Mr. Schnable was a Rolla, Missouri, businessman before the Civil War, and he was contracted to build the Rolla Jail before the war began. Interestingly enough, once the war began, he joined the Confederacy, and the Union was out to capture him and put him in the jail he constructed a few years prior. This confederate soldier was an amazing man and because of many of his actions, two of my Great, Great Grandfathers lived through some of the hardest battles & circumstances. If it were not for this man, I may not have been born.

Rolla, Missouri, Jail built by James Adams Schnable
Arkansas Tax Ledger shows J. A. Schnable's occupation as Construction / Builder.
    I discovered on Find A Grave that Schnable was buried at the Chinn Cemetery on Cave Creek 14 miles north of Batesville, Arkansas. This cemetery was literally out in the middle of nowhere. To get there was amazing, and the Lord orchestrated circumstances perfectly to make it a success. I have driven around and searched for his grave site for the past 3 years. I knew the general location, but it seemed I was always missing it. This was another one of my Lessons of Patience in the Lord's good timing.

    Sometimes, I can't resist seeing an old-timer sitting on a front porch and not stop and introduce myself. I love to hear what they know in the stories they might tell. There are always hidden gems & nuggets to discover by listening. 

This is exactly what I did.

    After talking to a few new-found neighbors, I was instructed to follow a couple of county roads. I scribbled a few notes in haste and started off on my extended adventure. I drove by another house that looked at least 40 - 50 years old, and I saw two more people sitting on their front porch. I pulled in the driveway, got out of the car, introduced myself, and started up a conversation. After 15 minutes, I headed back to the car and determined to follow the gravel road I was on, found another house, and visited for a few minutes. After getting a couple more details, I headed down the road with full expectations. After driving another mile, I spied a cemetery and made a quick stop. I was so excited talking to myself and thanking the Lord for his guidance. I spent a half hour of taking pictures of all the tombstones of this small plot. After photographing the last stone, it became relevant that I was at the wrong cemetery. My goal was still clear in my mind...find Lt. Col. Schnable's tombstone, and there was some reason I was in the middle of nowhere.

    Looking at my watch, I knew my time was slipping away, but I decided to find the end of the dirt road I was on. I finally approached an abandoned farm house on an ungraded dirt road in a beautiful valley that reminded me of the Lick Creek Road in Ozark County, Missouri. It felt like home, and I somehow knew I was close. The road also looked like it doubled as a creek part-time, and the cemetery I was searching could not be seen from this road. I found out later this valley was called Chinn Valley, and it was quite renowned in times past, but that's another story.

    As I was slowly creeping down the road, a farmer & his wife happened to meet me driving in their pickup. I stopped my car and rolled down my window to chat with them. I made mention of my goal of finding an old cemetery, and they told me to follow them. Lo and behold, this is were we landed. 

    As I walked through the cemetery, I found somebody was still mowing the grass. My eyes were drawn to the upper end to the older stones, and I found my Lt. Col. Schnable. As I anxiously gazed at the stone sentinel standing guard, chills ran down my spine. The sweet farmer's wife took my picture, and I don't know if I was sweating or crying in this picture. 

   I stood there realizing what I could not discover on my own...the Lord brought me to the place I longed to find. 

   It was a wonderful lesson in faith.

   One 3 hour trip from Little Rock turned into a 6 hour discovery. 

   Life Lesson..."Take the Long Way Home and Enjoy Your Ozarks' History."

Sunday, August 10, 2014

A Tall Tale of Ozark Prairie Grass

    Over the years I have read excerpt from pioneers from the Ozarks talk about the grasses in Ozarks' prairies grew so thick & tall that a man could get lost in itsthicket. I have also given lectures stating the same thing. There were a few times that questions would arise concerning the subject, and I could see small clouds of disbelief furrowing through their mind.

The Voice of Experience 
  Henry Rowe Schoolcraft was known as the "Lewis And Clark" of The Ozarks. His trek from Missouri into Arkansas was in the latter part of 1818 and last into 1819.  Schoolcraft published his journal from this journey called Journal of a Tour Into the Interior of Missouri and Arkansaw: From Potosi, Or Mine À Burton, in Missouri Territory, in a South-west Direction, Toward the Rocky Mountains; Performed in the Years 1818 and 1819.  

     This was the that was the first exploration of the Ozarks  to have a written account of an and tallgrass prairies of northwest Arkansas.  He elaborated in great detail of the Villages & dwellings of Delaware, Osage, and Osage Indians and he readily explained the conditions of the early white settlers in the rugged Ozarks. At that time of his exploration, many portions of of Southern Missouri & Northern Arkansas did not have the expansive forest of oak, hickory, and pine that we have today. many paces were known as barrens and prairies. Mr. Schoolcraft the following notes in his journal:

Henry Rowe Schoolcraft, 1855 
Monday Nov. 9th, 1818
   Our route this day has been over barrens and prairies, with occasional forests of oak, the soil poor, and covered with grass, with very little under-brush. 

Tuesday Nov. 10th, 1818
   One of the greatest inconveniences we experience in  travelling in this region, arises from the difficulty of finding, at the proper time, a place of encampment affording wood and water, both of which are indispensable...This is a difficulty which attends us this evening, having been compelled to stop in an open prairie, where wood is very scarce, and the water bad-general course of traveling south-weather pleasant, the rain having ceased shortly after day-light. Lands poor; trees, oaks; game observed, deer and elk.

Saturday Nov. 14th, 1818.
   In calling this a high- land prairie, I am to be understood as meaning a tract of high-land generally level, and with very little wood or shrubbery. It is a level woodless barren covered with wild grass, and resembling the natural meadows or prairies of the western country in appearance……..The inducements for hunting are, however, great; and large quantities of bear, deer, elk, and beaver skins, might be collected. 

Wednesday, Nov. 25th, 1818.
   The quality of the lands passed over to-day has, in general, been sterile, with little timber. A few strips of good bottom lands have intervened. 

Friday Jan. 1st, 1819 .
   On the west commences a prairie of unexplored extent, stretching off towards the Osage river, and covered with tall rank grass.

Monday Jan. 4th, 1819.
    The prairies, which commence at the distance of a mile west of this river, are the most extensive, rich, and beautiful, of any which I have ever seen west of the Mississippi river. They are covered by a coarse wild grass, which attains so great a height that it completely hides a man on horseback in riding through it. The deer and elk abound in this quarter, and the buffaloe is occasionally seen in droves upon the prairies, and in the open high-land woods.
End of Journal Excerpts

Remnants of an Ozark Prairie 
   Since I live down a county road in Baxter County and only a 1/4 of a mile down from the old Tucker Prairie, I have been keeping an eye pealed on a very special cluster of grass along the side of my road. While coming home from work a few weeks ago, my heart sank when I discovered the Baxter County Road & Bridge Department was mowing the ditch. I quickly pressed on the accelerator of my car and hastened to my cherished clump of weeds. To my joy & surprise they only took one swipe along the ditch. The next evening I had a chance to talk with someone at the county office about their future plans of mowing more of the ditch-line. At first, I think she was probably thinking that she was getting ready to hear a complaint, but that could be further from the truth. She told me that due to financial constraints, one swipe of mowing the ditches was about all the county could do.  Hallelujah for harsh winters that drains budgets.
Baker's Prairie in Harrison, Arkansas
Baker's Prairie in Harrison, Arkansas

Big Blue Stem grass, also known as Turkey's Foot (Andropogon gerardii)

I am stand here in my Israeli Defense Force shirt next to my cherished clumps of grass.
I'm standing in a clump of Big Blue Stem grass, also known as Turkey's Foot (Andropogon gerardii),
and Johnson grass  (Sorghum halepense).
Unfortunately, this Johnson grass is chocking out the Big Blue Stem, and Johnson grass is 
actually not native to the Ozarks, but it sure grows like it does.
Invasive Johnson grass - 10 feet, 5 inches.
Schoolcraft, Henry Rowe. Journal of a Tour into the Interior of Missouri and Arkansas: From Potosi, or Mine a Burton, in Missouri Territory, in a South-west Direction, toward the Rocky Mountains: Performed in the Years 1818 and 1819. London: Printed for Sir R. Phillips, 1821. Print.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Jacob Wolf House in Norfork, Arkansas

Major Jacob Wolf
     I recently had the opportunity to go to the Jacob Wolf House and visit with friends and make new acquaintances. While there, I had the rare chance to go upstairs, and I decided to snap a few pictures.

Following these pictures, I have transcribed an 1830 news article from the Arkansas Advocate talking about Izard County, Arkansas. In the midst of this article is the mention of Mr. Wolf  and the Seat of Justice,  Liberty.  “Liberty” was the original name of Norfork.

Enjoy your Ozarks' History.

Jacob Wolf House.  Notice the roof-line; this is called "Turkey Tail."
View from the balcony over looking the White River below.
View from the balcony over looking the the Blacksmith Shop, the Rev. John Wolf Cabin & the White River below & old ferry crossing.
The Blacksmith Shop
View from door on the second floor.
View from window from second floor.
Second Floor...First Room...Door to the right.
Second Floor...Second Room.
Blacksmith Shop

The Inscription Stone of the Rev. John Wolf cabin.

For the Arkansas Advocate

    Izard County is situated on White river in the northern part of the Territory, extending from Independence to Washington county, a distance of 120 miles by way of the road, and 300 by the river, which runs throughout its whole extent; and in beauty, clearness and purity, is exceeded by no other in the Union. Its margin affords bottom or alluvial lands, not so large as those which are found on the Arkansas, but equally as rich, and in many places, sufficiently extensive for a number of families. Unlike most large streams, the inhabitants generally reside next to the hills, for the convenience of spring water, which gushes forth from the cliffs, and in many places, set in close to the bottoms. In going from Independence County, the first settlement is on Rocky Bayou, a little stream not exceeding 15 miles in length, fed by springs which are numerous to its source. A few miles above its mouth, this creek branches out in various directions, upon which are neat little farms indicating contentment and cheerfulness; it has a population of 15 or 20 families, a saw mill and two grist mills. From this place to the Piny creeks, a distance of 15 miles, the country is poor and mountainous; here, however, at the junction of these creeks, the prospect is much enlivened by the appearance of a saw mill and grist mill, belonging to the Messrs. Livingston and Wolf. This mill is within half a mile of the river, and the pine around it is inexhaustible. Those gentlemen deserve much credit for their enterprise, and there is no doubt that their perseverance will meet with success.

    From this to the next settlement, a distance of 17 miles, the land appears somewhat better; here we find another grist mill and another saw mill, both of which meet with much encouragement.  Eight miles further on is a branch of White river, called the Big North Fork; it is about 80 yards in width and at least 100 miles in length; in other countries it would be called a navigable river as it now is in freshets for some distance. It is settled for 30 or 40 miles up, presents much rich bottom and a good deal of tillable upland. About 20 miles from its mouth, it breaks off into creeks, many of which upon their borders, present many inviting situations, and the country adjoining becomes for some distance level and rich. At the junction of this stream with White river, stands the Seat of Justice, Liberty; its situation is elevated and commanding; as yet, how-ever, like most of the little towns, it is not much improved; in proportions as the settlements increase so will this place, in importance. At this time it has a store, a blacksmith shop, and a good Tavern, where is to be found good cheer upon moderate terms. Opposite to the town is another store and a cotton gin nearly competed.

      For 30 miles farther the hills and mountains are numerous, then for 10 miles the lands are rich and thickly settled, until we reach the Little North Fork, about 40 yards in width and 60 miles in length; here, near the mouth, is another sawmill and here too, within a short distance of the main river, is an inexhaustible mine of Iron ore, and if the reports of those who have examined it be true, of which there is no reason to doubt, it will yield to no other in richness; for it is said to be almost malleable. Wood is plenty immediately joining to it, and water power sufficient for machinery of any kind. It will yet be the source of wealth to some enterprising capitalist, for in addition to the many advantages which it presents, the iron could be shipped immediately from the works, and the counties below, bordering upon the river, would be a market calculated to take much of its labor. Above this stream we see consider-able good land, and pass Swan and Bull Creeks, and many others, all of which not only have settlements on them, but present many fine openings to the emigrant.

     Forty miles farther we strike James’ Fork of White river a stream equally as large and long as the Big North Fork, The bottoms are tolerably large and in proportion as it is ascended, becomes more open until about 30 miles from the mouth a level country is readily seen really and truly inviting, fine land, the best of water and health, if it is to be found anywhere. This stream is settling fast, particularly by persons from Missouri. It has become in some measure noted for its lead mines, the ore of which is plainly perceptible to the eye across the whole bed of the stream; it is said to be very rich though it has never been regularly worked. The Indians and others occasionally run their lead from it. On the west side of the river, the prairie opens and extends as is supposed to the Rocky Mountains. There is a road from here to Washington County, and another to St. Louis, both of which are said to be a good deal traveled. The country generally above this and on the head of White river and its tributaries is very similar to that of Washington County. Heretofore, the country and its streams have been spoken of only on the north side of White river; that on the south side is far from being undeserving of notice. Until 1828 it formed a part of the Cherokee nation, and was always deemed the most inviting part of Izard County.

     The lands upon the river have been described, but some distance back along the line of Independence, is a large tract called the Rich Woods, said to be well watered and almost large enough for a county. There are but a few families settled here, all of whom speak in the highest terms of the adjacent lands. It is so lately that this part of Izard has been open for settlement, that its advantages and good lands are almost unknown; it is well therefore, to pass on to Buffalo creek, a distance of 50 miles, though in doing so a number of small creeks must be passed unnoticed.

     Buffalo creek is upward of 40 miles in length, its bottoms are tolerable good and will give room to a considerable settlement; near its mouth is a large salt petre cave, which a few years since, was extensively worked. The next stream is Crooked creek, which has long had a high reputation; it is 60 miles long and though inclined to be poor and rocky near its mouth, yet a few miles up a beautiful country is found, and it continues up to its head; its bottoms are large, and the uplands, generally undulating, rich as can be desired; springs are so numerous here that they are discovered in every direction. The land continues good to Bear creek. The character of this little stream is, generally speaking, similar to that of Crooked creek. These two creeks are beginning to present farms not only immediately upon the margin, but in the open country, which breaks off level, occasionally giving a view of small prairie sufficiently large for good farms.

    King river empties into White river, and is worthy of attention to those who are fond of good spring water, as well as good land both of which can be found upon and near it without much trouble. Fifteen miles above is the War Eagle, one of the main forks of White river, but supposed to be in Washington county. It is no doubt navigable for flat boats for some distance in high water. For many miles up it presents very large bodies of land well adapted to agricultural purposes, occasionally intersected with small prairies, similar in richness and appearance to the lands in Washington county. Four miles above this is Richland creek. Its name is truly applicable, for the land is rich in every direction, and continues so with scarcely an intermission for 20 miles, to Washington Courthouse.

     In giving a description of Izard County, it is perhaps, going too near the Washington C. H. [Court House], but as it is located on White river, a full description of its tributaries, however superficial, should be given. It is a rare case in Izard County, to find a farmer without a first-rate spring, which no doubt adds very much to the health of the inhabitants. It has increased by slowly in population from the fact that it was a great measure unknown, and until within two years, the part situated on the south side of the river, belonged to the Indians. It is now, however, increasing considerably in numbers, and no doubt will continue to do so in proportion as it becomes better known. It is but lately that the inhabitants have devoted any part of their attention to the cultivation of cotton, yet this year they will probably export nearly 100 bales.

     The inhabitants of Izard, like all the other counties bordering on White river, receive their supplies in kneel boats; they too, call loudly for a steam-boat to ascend the river, for they would be prepared, like every other family in the north, to buy their groceries and such other articles as they might need; and a full load upon such terms as could be afforded to be sold at, would occasion no delay, and give a handsome freight and commission. It would scarcely be believed, that six counties, with a population of 7 or 8,000 could, sending off near a 1,000 bales of cotton, besides peltries, furs, etc., and importing 250 tons of merchandise, have never been visited by a single steam-boat. One trip would soon induce another, for the harvest awaiting the coming of the first is truly a rich one. Then, too, emigrants desirous of settling on the waters of White river, would have an opportunity of ascending with less labor and expense. Many parts of Izard County are similar to Washington, the farmers are kind and hospitable, and provisions cheap and plenty.

End of Article
 Work Cited:
“Izard County.” The Arkansas Advocate, Little Rock, Arkansas, (10 Nov., 1830) 3.
Jacob Wolf. N.d. Photograph. Baxter County Heritage Center, Mountain Home Arkansas, (11, Nov., 2013).