Sunday, June 12, 2016

Cold Cave above Spring Creek

Photo by Denny Elrod

Izard County is a gift that keeps on giving. And not just predictable gifts -fresh, exciting ones! The EIC Crew's trip to Cold Cave this week was one I will remember always. This fantastic rock formation is easily the most amazing place I have been in the county!

Photo by Denny Elrod
A section of bluff has separated from the ridge top along Spring Creek and  the giant fractured boulders that resulted lean together to form an unbelievable space beneath. Upon entering the shadows of the cavern beneath the towering standing stones there is a significant change of temperature - unlike that encountered when entering an actual cave. This is a coolness born on a breeze as air circulates through several shadowed corridors in a sort of convection.

Rising up from within the cavern beneath the
leaning stones, the inside walls vault upwards like those in a cathedral to a cross-shaped opening revealing the forest canopy and the sky above. Darkened moss-lined corridors of stone lead off in several directions, most with points of light of their own. The entire structure has an almost spiritual feel to it. There are four separate entrances a person can enter into the cool, darkened space - each with it's own charm.

There are many incredible places in our county. This one is truly magical!
Photo By Denny Elrod
Photo by Maria Broughton
Photo by Maria Broughton
Photo by Denny Elrod

Photo by Maria Broughton

Photo by Maria Broughton

Photo by Rick Dowdle
Photo by Denny Elrod

Photo by Denny Elrod

Photo by Denny Elrod
Photo by Denny Elrod

Photo by Denny Elrod

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Old Benbrook Mill on Piney Creek

Finding and learning about the mill sites in Izard County is probably the most fascinating thing I do as a member of the EIC Crew. This week, with the help of our friend, Pauletta, we got to visit one of the...if not THE most important mill sites in the county. People brought their grain to be ground into flour and their wool and cotton to be carded at this place from as far away as Fulton County and even from across the river in modern-day Stone County. It operated up until the 1880s having been built by Nathan Langston and soon after sold to Henry Benbrook. It's the site of one of the first post-offices in the county and was a real hub of activity for generations.
 Many of the timbers from this mill still exist as ruins in and along Piney Creek. There is, of course the remains of the mill dam retaining wall
stretching from bank to bank. Even many of the retaining wall planks remain! Also, there is an extensive grid of large square-hewn timbers forming the base of what must have been a deck supporting milling and/or carding equipment.
 John Quincy Wolf wrote about the mill in his "Life in the Leatherwoods:

 "When I was a boy, therre were three water-powered mills that I knew of. The first water-powered mill I ever saw was on Piney Creek about four miles east of Calico Rock. It ground both wheat and corn and had a large carding factory adjacent to it. It was the only mill within a large scope of the country and naturally enjoyed a large patronage, its clientele extending across White River into what is now Stone County. Patrons living on the south side of the river used to set a day sending to the mill. Half a dozen or more people would bring their corn and wheat to a central place and pile it into the wagon of one farmer who would ford the river and drive to the mill. He would frequently have to stay all night and two whole days waiting for the grain to be ground into flour.

 The mill in question was known as Benbrook's Mill. It was operated by Elbert Benbrook and was built before the Civil-War. It suspended operation about 1880. Mr. Benbrook was a good mechanic and a good miller who made good flour."

User S. Springfield at writes:

 "Caleb’s (Langston) sons built a mill on Piney Creek. They carried logs on their shoulders and built
it in six days. It was the first Mill in the County. This was an “undershot” water wheel with the water going under the wheel instead of over it because of the slow flow of the water. The mill would run for a short time, then they would have to wait until the water level rose again before they started up. It could grind a bushel of corn a day.Nathan Langston and Colonel Stuart each owned a half interest in the Mill. Nathan operated the Mill for six months then sold his interest to Henry Benbrook. Today, it is known as the "Old Benbrook Mill" Site.

It was wonderful to see this amazing historic site and I'm glad EIC has some photos of it as it looks today! Click images to enlarge.

Monday, June 06, 2016

Sentinel Valley Falls on Flat Rock Creek

A little over seven years ago, the EIC Crew trekked down Flat Rock Creek from Flat Rock Hollow with a friend who wanted to show us a waterfall. As we descended the creek, it eventually played out, the water seeming to have just been absorbed by the creek bed at one point in the area of what we have named "Sentinel Valley". Sentinel Valley is an open area with giant monoliths and rock
formations that tower over the creek hollow like soldiers standing guard. Only a hundred or so yards from where the stream disappeared into the creek bed, was a sheer drop of at least fifty feet with no water running over it but a trickle of a stream we could see below. On that occasion, we didn't take the opportunity to negotiate the steep rocky descent to the canyon floor.

On Sunday, after Friday's 6.5+  inch rains in the area, we finally made our long anticipated return to the location in hopes of getting shots of the creek pouring over the fall. Though our entire group didn't make it all the way through the heavy brush, we did manage to get some shots of the falls which we have dubbed "Sentinel Valley Falls". This time, it was essential that the steep canyon walls were conquered and it was well worth the effort! Beneath the falls, in the cliff face, there are two caves. One is a shelter and is elevated a bit and the other is just behind the falls and has a small stream running out of it. We have concluded that the water upstream a ways seeps through the gravel creek bed through a crack and continues downstream through the cave to emerge at the bottom of the rock face.

Flat Rock creek is a natural wonder. We are blessed to have such incredible places here in our area of God's Green Earth!

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Camp Sage: Civilian Conservation Corps Facility

The following information was found, of all places, on Ebay. The seller was using it to explain an item (a 1 cent CCC token) for sale. It was among information on several Arkansas CCC Camps and the seller did not cite the source:

Camp Sage, Company 3780, was located at Stella near Melbourne (Izard County). It was built in 1937–38, situated on a hill overlooking a rural area, and held from 175 to 200 people at its peak. A fire-watch tower stood adjacent to the camp. Work activities were connected with forest husbandry and soil conservation: building forest roads, stringing telephone lines, building a side camp, drainage control, and containment of forest fires. Later, some of the roads were converted to county roads. During the last half of 1941, activity dwindled; the side camp shut down, and enlistments declined. By November, Camp Sage was disbanded.

I have read that the workers from Camp Sage assisted the NYA Resident Training Project in Melbourne with the construction of the modern courthouse. 
The Camp was located on the ridge at Stella on the west side of Highway 69. The EIC Crew went there a few years ago for a brief visit and was able to get a few photos of structures that remain. I'm guessing that the large concrete block structures with inscriptions were the piers for the fire tower mentioned in the passage above.

We located several areas with paving stones, some border stones, what was likely the gate to the facility, and a number of other concrete structures that were either part of  shop buildings or even shower/lavatory areas.

I've misplaced my CD version of the Izard County Historian quarterlies and will provide more information about the site in a later update.