Thursday, July 21, 2011

A History of Izard County: Eastern Izard County

Young Karr Shannon
One of the areas of Izard County the EIC Crew has neglected at times over the past 5 years is the eastern part, Zion, the area near Antioch Church, Battles, actually the entire portion of the county comprising the Strawberry River watershed. It seems we are not alone in our negligence, however, because in his book, A History of Izard County, Karr Shannon wrote very little about the places or the people of that region. While Mr. Shannon's work is of priceless value to our generation and those that will follow, it is not without its frustrations.

In the opening article of the series using Karr Shannon's book, I hinted at one of the frustrations derived from its reading - the lack of stories about regular folk who were important to the building of the county and the focus on prominent men who were Shannon's contemporaries. In that article, I attributed this lack of coverage of regular folk to the author's obvious desire to paint Izard County in a positive light following the ridicule Izard County received nationally surrounding the shooting death of Sheriff James Lawrence Harber and the events that transpired because of the tragedy. With this in mind, it's easier to understand why so little attention was given to the nether regions of Izard County in the area of the Strawberry River, Piney Fork Bayou, and Bear Creek to the east. It's to his credit, in fact, that in the midst of his defense of Izard County as a progressive area of civilization, he at least makes mention of a couple of communities in this area.

They are as follows:

"The town takes its name from the Zion Hill Baptist Church, one of the early churches of the county. a post office was established here June 17, 1886. William T. Campbell was the first postmaster. The territory around this place is in the nature of a plateau and well watered by small creeks."


"The place now known as Battles was first called Hamm when A.J. Hamm, who was postmaster from 1893 to 1906, when the office was discontinued. The office was re-established May 13, 1907, with the name of "Battles" after F.M. Battles. Phillip D Parish was the first postmaster under the new name. F.M. Battles became postmaster in 1910. The office was moved one and one-half miles west of the present location in 1922. Mrs. Willie Dover is now postmaster.

Neither of these towns currently has a post office. In fact, Battles doesn't exist at all. It was in this area of the county where the Hamm Schoolhouse, the Jack Schoolhouse, the Hightower Schoolhouse, and the Harmony Grove Schoolhouse stood. Today, the Hightower School is gone, the Hamm School is in a state of near collapse, and both the Jack and Harmony Grove Schools are used as barns. It's also in this area where the Antioch Church was born and still remains today.

In lieu of Karr's lack of focus on the eastern part of the county, we offer the following excerpts from Mrs. Leeda Oneal's article about the Antioch community from the Izard County Historian January, 1984 Volume 15 Number 1:

"ANTIOCH COMMUNITY -The Antioch area in the eastern edge of Izard County cannot be termed a community in the strictest sense of the word. The Baptist Church, the Masonic Lodge and the cemetery bear the name and are what defines the location. There was never a post office, school, or trade center there, as far as can be determined at this time. Zion, located about two miles west and Needmore to the east each had post offices established in 1886 but none nearby at the time the church was organized at Antioch.
"Mrs. Samuel (Ellen) Foster related most of the information on the more recent activities of the community. Coming to the area as a bride more than seventy years ago, Mrs. Foster was a native of Sharp County which was created from Izard and Lawrence counties in 1868. She remembers when large fields of wheat were grown and harvested each year. Threshing crews went from farm to farm and so did the big meals prepared by the farm wives. Previous to the arrival of the thresher, the wheat had been cut and tied by hand. Individual farmers usually cradled their own wheat or hired one or two helpers to have the wheat ready for the thresher.
According to Mrs. Foster, there were many good musicians in the vicinity and all gathered at neighbor’s homes and everyone was invited to listen to good music and sometimes to a square dance. Another diversion in those early days was taking grain to nearby mills to be made into flour and meal.

"In addition to the McElmurrys, Hills, Durens and Hightowers, other early settlers were the Fords, Fosters, Frizzells, Battles, Dobbins, Millers, Wiles, Wolfords, Williams, Marlins, and Jones. The names of these old settlers appear on many of the tombstones in the Antioch Cemetery. The oldest tombstone I found there was that of Mary Wolford Miller (wife of Elder John W. Miller). She was born January 30, 1810 and died August 31, 1863. A survey of the Antioch Cemetery was published in the January, 1983 issue of the Izard County Historian.
Andrew Jackson McElmurry House
"Some McElmurry’s are buried in the Antioch Cemetery but the lo-cation of the graves of Henry, whose death occurred in 1853; his wife, Nancy; Andrew J. McElmurry and an infant were not known. There is an article and picture in the July, 1974 issue of the Izard County Historian telling of the search for these graves. For more than one hundred years their graves went unmarked except for unlettered field stones. The family burial plot was finally located in a field about a half mile from the “Old McElmurry Homestead” on Piney Creek near what is known as the Ham Schoolhouse."

Note - To view some video footage of what remains of the old Andrew Jackson McElmurry place , Click here to revisit an earlier post.
Continuing with excerpts from Mrs. Oneal's article:

"In 1844, Green Hill gave land to be used for the Antioch church lot and cemetery. That same year, Elder Henry McElmurry arrived in Izard County from Wayne County, Missouri, where he had been living since early manhood. He was born 1797 in Christian County, Kentucky and was married to Nancy Pairpoint (Pierpoint) March 7, 1815 in Livingston County, Kentucky. At the time of his marriage he could neither read nor write. His library consisted of an old leather bound Bible and Dupuy’s hymn book. His wife selected the third chapter of Matthew and from that she taught him his letters and to begin to read. They persevered until he learned to read the Bible and hymn book. He never learned how to write -not even his own name.

"In a biographical sketch by W. M. Duren, W. K. Estes, J. C. Miller and J. P. Lovelace written in the year 1901 we read that, “Elder McElmurry was not considered a doctrinal preacher but possessed great physical and mental power and succeeded quite well in the ministry. He was a great exhorter and an excellent singer, memorizing hymns and singing them with such spirit and feeling that he held the attention of all present. Among the rude brush breakers of this country few could have done more good than Elder Henry McElmurry.”
"On bringing his family to Izard County in the year 1844, Elder McElmurry saw the need for a church in his community and with the aid of other settlers a meeting was held, a Baptist Church organized, and work began on erecting a small log building at the site of the present building. Later, a second story of logs was added to make a meeting place for the Masonic Lodge which was to be moved from the place of its organization in the home of J. H. Finley which was located on Finley Creek about three miles east of Sage. This home still stands and is usually occupied.
"As the Antioch community grew more prosperous and sawmills were located nearby, the old log structure was moved to a nearby farm and used as a barn.

"The following are notes taken from the files of John Q. Wolf, who had copied them from the files of his grandfather, John Wolf, and from early minutes of the First Baptist Church of Batesville.

"Elder Henry McElmurry was the first pastor of the First Baptist Church of Batesville, serving 1847 and 1848. Wishing to resume his missionary work he resigned from this church in 1848 and worked the entire upper White River area. He was officially appointed missionary for the district in 1850 being paid $200 a year. He was armed with a printed and signed “Commission” so people and churches might know who he was. In December of 1850 his quarterly report read: “Traveled 888 miles (on horseback and on foot) ; visited 70 churches, delivered 25 sermons, 25 exhortations, 6 public addresses, made 2 baptisms in Antioch Church.” His collections for the three months was $22.80.

"There was a reorganization of the Rocky Bayou Association in 1849. The meeting was held at Antioch Church with Elder Henry McElmurry, moderator. The American Baptist Register for 1851 gives the following on Rocky Bayou Association in 1850: “Antioch Church had 78 members with Elder H. McElmurry as pastor.” The extent of the importance of Antioch Church can be seen in the 1850 report which lists, among others, the following: Mt. Pleasant (now Sage), 17 members; Salem, 5 members; Macedonia, 17 members; Evergreen (now Melbourne),
13 members; Batesville, 38 members."

Photo of A.J. McElmurry Place courtesey Eddie Chet
Photo of Young Karr Shannon courtesy Roger Harvell 


Norma Jean Taylor Clubine said...

I am so glad you are looking at Eastern Izard County. My ancestors resided in that area in the mid 1800's. I am familiar with many of the names you mention in this article but I have not seen any Carpenters or Taylors mentioned (my ancestors). It is possible they were not there by that time. My great aunt, Sarah Cornelia Carpenter was married to George Macum McElmurry, grandson of Andrew Jackson McElmurry. I found it interesting that the McElmurry family was involved in the growth of that area.

Donna Thomas said...

Thank you for posting. I grew up near Antioch, on Bear Creek. We went to church at Zion.

Donna Thomas said...

Thank you for posting. I grew up near Antioch, on Bear Creek. We went to church at Zion.

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