Tuesday, November 08, 2016

Steamboat's A 'Comin'! Ozark Queen in Izard

One of the most colorful eras of White River Valley history was that of the steamboats. One of the last to ply its trade along the river in Izard County was the Ozark Queen which was built in Batesville and launched 1896 only a few years before the railroad made the boats obsolete. 

Here's an excerpt from an article on the Steamboat era by Duane Huddleston, author of Steamboats and Ferries on the White River about the much-loved sternwheeler:

"The Year 1896 was especially disastrous for the steamboats serving Marion County, Gone were the T. E. MORRISON, the MYRTLE, the RALPH E. WARNER, and the J. A. WOODSON, which Captain Woodbury returned to her owners before launching the OZARK QUEEN at Batesville in September. The TYCOON was also built there, and three boats were in the trade; but the DAUNTLESS caught fire and burned on November 10.
The OZARK QUEEN was the last steamboat constructed for passenger and freight service to Marion County, and with her passing a colorful era ended. Her tremendous struggle against river hazards, the competition from other boats, and the increasing threat of the railroad, typified the last days of steam packets on the upper river.
Among the very few who remembered the OZARK QUEEN in 1972 was Mrs. Minnie B. Johnson, nee [sic] Huddleston, who is now, deceased. In her youth, she witnessed the arrival of several steamboats at McBee's Landing and could recall those exciting moments. Before her demise, she stated:
"When I was a young girl on papa's farm on the old Denton Ferry road, we could hear the steamboats distinctly as they rounded the bend and whistled for McBee's. Before the sound could fade away, us kids would yell, "The QUEEN's a comin! The QUEEN's a comin! Steamboat's here!" Then we would race like scared rabbits through the woods to see who could be the first to reach the river!"
The OZARK QUEEN vied with the TYCOON, Captain Dick Prater, master, and the JOSIE SIVLEY for the upper river trade during 1896-97 boating season. Captain Woodbury's boat was the largest, being 133 feet long, 25.6 feet wide and displacing 135 net tons, while the TYCOON was 64 tons net. The OZARK QUEEN made nine trips from Newport to McBee's, eleven to Buffalo City, one to the rapids, and one from Batesville to Sylamore, carrying 260 passengers. In comparison, the TYCOON hauled 50 passengers on 19 trips -- the JOSIE SIVLEY's captain did not render a report.
Trade was dull during the 1897-1898 boating season, forcing the TYCOON to Black River, but in late January the OZARK QUEEN and TYCOON resumed full operation, each making several trips to Buffalo City and McBee's until low water stopped their activities.
The steamers were in competition during the 1898-1899 season until the TYCOON burned in early 1899, after which the OZARK QUEEN enjoyed an excellent year. She made 22 trips to Buffalo City and McBee's, and on May 17 went to Oakland.
Captain Woodbury announced semiweekly trips to Buffalo City at the start of 1899-1900 season, leaving Batesville every Saturday and Wednesday mornings. Again the OZARK QUEEN was alone in the trade, but low water reduced her trips. She made one to Oakland, six to McBee's and five to Buffalo City.
An event in early 1899 affected the OZARK QUEEN and her competitors -- the River and Harbor Bill in Congress provided for ten locks and dams to insure year-round navigation to Marion County. One was authorized yearly until all were completed, and money was appropriated to start the first at Batesville. Construction began in the fall of 1900, and the OZARK QUEEN was no longer alone in the upper river trade; the JESSIE BLAIR, a small gasoline sternwheeler from Illinois appeared. The tiny vessel was 52 feet long, 12 feet wide and commanded by a Captain Heniken. She made three trips to Buffalo City by March 1, 1901.
The last two years of steamboating were busy ones. Construction on Lock and Dam No. 1 was completed, and work started on No. 2, some ten miles above Batesville. The White River branch of the St. Louis, Iron Mountain and Southern Railroad was also under construction. In addition to the OZARK QUEEN, more boats arrived, several being hired to haul equipment and supplies to build the railroad.
As winter approached, the captains prepared for the last season of steamboating to Marion County. During late November, Captain Stallings passed Penter's Bluff with the 65-ton JOE WHEELER, enroute to Buffalo City, followed closely by Captain Woodbury and the OZARK QYEEN [sic]. Shortly thereafter, the steamers KENNEDY, QUICKSTEP, WELCOME, BUCK ELK and MYRTLE COREY, and the gasoline boat EUREKA, joined the parade of boats to McBee's.
The OZARK QUEEN reached Buffalo City without mishap, but became stuck on the shoals. Although in a dangerous situation, she pulled free with only minor damage. The OZARK QUEEN's primary competitor for the commercial trade was lucky, with Captain Stallings having a good season, but Captain Woodbury continued to be dogged with misfortune. During the last week in December, the OZARK QUEEN was returning from McBee's with 400 bales of cotton, when she ran aground some 20 miles above Batesville. The crew worked for hours to dislodge the QUEEN, but she could not be moved. Sadly Captain Woodbury awaited a rise to free the steamer; however, it was six long weeks before the boat was dislodged.
After unloading his cargo at Batesville, the captain headed for McBee's Landing. He worked hard to recoup his losses, and the Mountain Echo reported on two occasions that he was scouring the river above Oakland for freight. Perhaps the strain was too much for the old riverman, for in March he became ill while on an upriver trip. Walter Isom, who was then working at the Buffalo City Landing, remembered Captain Woodbury's last trip:
"When the QUEEN landed, poor Cap'n was awfully sick," he recalled. "He wanted to go on up to McBee's, but just couldn't make it. We unloaded the QUEEN, and she headed for Batesville. As I watched her round out, I knew the Cap'n would never be back."
The death knell for steam packets in Marion County was sounded on Monday, August 24, 1903, when the whistle of a steam locomotive heralded the arrival of the first passenger train from Batesville to Cotter. With its coming, regular rail service was established, and the twin bands of steel completed the job of crushing river competition. The stirring whistle of the steamboat had been stilled by the lonesome wail of the locomotive."

The entire article is worth the read as it talks about the other boats as well as the people who operated them all along the White River during the era. . I encourage you to visit the page and read it by clicking here

Note:  The top three images below are of the Ozark Queen in Izard County. Mount Olive. Calico Rock, and Penter's Bluff. The bottom two are along the river in Independence County. Batesville and just below the current location of Lock 3 near Penter's Bluff (the caption says Calico Rock but we believe it to be Lock 3 during construction). The Penter's bluff photo is from the Kennedy Auction Service page where we borrowed it.  





Monday, August 08, 2016

Old Guion to Melbourne Road - Bridge at Sandy Flat:

One of the earliest roads in the county connected the Steamboat landing (and later the railroad) at Wild Haws Landing (now Guion) to Melbourne and the central part of Izard. It is said to have followed Rocky Bayou's valley crossing the creek many times. Eudell Smith once told us that there are wagon ruts in the bedrock in some places along the route. It was along this road that the material for the 1912 Clocktower Courthouse was transported from the railroad to Melbourne in wagons. Below are some photos of the bridge piers from the span that crossed East Rocky Bayou just a few yards above where the stream meets West Rocky Bayou at Sandy Flat (also known as Adler). Some of the piers are of an earlier construction and one is obviously from later. The road served the area for many years up until the middle part of the 20th Century.  Other photos are from the area of the converging streams at Sandy Flat.







Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Vintage Photos: Watkins Plantation House

The Watkins Brothers moved to Izard County around 1844 and the family created the largest plantation in the county. The Watkins Plantation House stood into the late 1960s or early 70s until it was dismantled. The bricks, which were made by the Watkins slaves on the plantation, were later used to build the Knight House that stood just east of Melbourne along Highway 69 near Possum Trot before it burned just a few years ago.

From a conversation online at RootsWeb that includes remarks and research by our friends, Jean Mayfield Cuevas, Rosemary Kenney, and others:

"Wild Haws" was a large estate, which one entered by means of two large

gates. The little community, consisting of a general store, post office,
drug store, hardware store, etc. was practically owned by Dr. O.T. and was
about 1/2 mile from the estate (main house) and to this community came
people from all around to trade. His home was a large brick house, with
brick made on the property. Had comfortable quarters for slaves which were
a distance from main house. Principal crops were corn & wheat. however all
other kinds of foodstuffs were also raised. He had immense orchards that 
furnished fruit for all in abundance, there was a smoke house for the meats."


Another interesting comment about the plantation from the same conversation:

"During Civil War Grandfather Martin went to live with his
>daughter, Elizabeth Mahala Watkins, on her husband's plantation "Wild Haws"
>where he died in 1864, Sept 27th. In 1861 Yankees came onto his plantation
>and destroyed everything, including Family Bible brought from Ireland."


Thanks to our friend, Sue McCluskey for sharing these photos on Facebook! Unfortunately, we are not certain who the people are in the photos.

You can learn more about the Watkins Family at our article on the adjacent Watkins Cemetery.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Vintage Photo Postcard: Elijah Jeffery House at Mount Olive

The Elijah Jeffery House stood until a few years ago along the railroad tracks at Mount Olive. In its later years, it served as a boarding house before finally being abandoned to its fate. Our first encounters with this incredible old building were when it had deteriorated to the point of parts of the roof collapsing (see photo at right)
. Behind the home was a fascinating root cellar or ice house of cut stone that has been dismantled and the stone used by someone for a modern project. The beautiful roofing tin was also salvaged and was used to decorate the interior of the recently remodeled Mount Olive Schoolhouse nearby. Before acquiring this photo from our friend Judy Williams whose aunt had shared it with Judy's parents, we could only imagine the magnificence of the old structure. Here's the building as it looked in its hey-day.




Sunday, July 10, 2016

Gray Cemetery (AKA Felts Cemetery) at Bonetown




Gray Cemetery is a smallish cemetery that sits right along County Road 72 between Bonetown and Sage. There are some very interesting people lying at rest here as well as some fascinating homemade gravestones.

The most interesting gravestones are those of the Meers siblings Cary and William Preston Jr., Children of William Preston and Sarah Meers of Cherokee County, Georgia. These stones were lovingly crafted by an amateur stone mason and are really something special.  William Senior was a veteran of the CSA having served as First Sargent in the infantry for Company C, Cherokee Legion. There are records of him having spent time at the military hospital at Jonesboro, Ga. in 1864 with "chronic hepatitis", Williams wife, Sarah A.Jarret Meers, is documented as having set up a homestead in Franklin Township in Izard County some time after her husband died after the conclusion of the War Between the States. In 1876,  Mrs. Meers is known to have purchased the R.F. Jones homestead of 160 acres for $185 and finished out the claim. I could find no record of where Sarah or William Senior is buried.

Also buried here is Robert Gray who was originally from Wilkes County, North Carolina and moved to Izard County with his family in 1859. He was a Civil War veteran who lost a leg and a finger during the conflict and returned to Izard County to become a teacher and continue to farm his land. Following is an excerpt from a Goodspeed biography of Mr. Gray:

"Mr. Gray, like his father, has always been engaged in farming, and owns about
700 acres of good land, of which 250 acres are under cultivation. He has been a
member of the I. O. O. F. for the past nine years, and has held a number of
offices in the county, such as assessor, and while residing in Sharp County held
the office of county treasurer for two years. In 1862 he enlisted in the
Confederate army under McBride, and was severely wounded at the fight at
Mansfield, losing his left leg and one finger on his left hand. He also received
a shot in the left side, and received his discharge in 1865. He followed the
occupation of school teaching for some time after returning home, but, as stated
above, has given the most of his attention to farming, at which he has been
remarkably successful. He and wife worship in the Baptist Church."

A decorated veteran of World War II also lies here, Thomas Wesley Miller, who served with distinction as a Techinician Grade 4 being awarded two bronze stars. Mr. Miller also served as Director of the Arkansas Veterans Affairs for more than ten years and was responsible for having played a major part in setting up the Veterans Home in Little Rock.




















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 Genealogy.com 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.