Thursday, July 28, 2011

A History of Izard County: Lunenburg

Old Lunenburg School - Courtesy, Jennifer McSparren
Henry Karr Shannon, as has been repeated several times in our posts, was known as "The Sage of Lunenburg".
It's appropriate that we first take a look at his intimate connection with the Lunenburg community before getting into his writings about the places and people of his childhood home. A couple of paragraphs from Shannon Roe's excellent biographical article about Karr in The Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture does this best:

"Born on March 1, 1902, at Lunenburg (Izard County), Karr Shannon was the only child of farmers Robert Nathan and Allie Maud (Estes) Shannon. A bout with scarlet fever and measles at age three left Shannon with only thirty percent of normal hearing. When he was five, his mother died of tuberculosis, and his father moved to New Mexico, where he, too, died of tuberculosis three years later. Shannon stayed behind in Lunenburg with his widowed aunt, Lucy Estes Horton, who took him to live with her and her grandfather, Thomas Estes.
"As a child, Shannon divided his time between farm work and Lunenburg’s one-room school through eighth grade. He completed high school in Melbourne (Izard County) and junior college at Mountain Home Academy and College in Baxter County. He then studied pharmacy at Little Rock College, became a licensed pharmacist in 1924, and worked at Mac Curlee’s drug store in Mountain Home until he developed allergies to pharmaceutical chemicals.
Following his brief stint as a pharmacist, Shannon passed the state teachers’ exam and taught school at Franklin (Izard County) and Melbourne, where he also served as principal. In 1926, he became Izard County superintendent of schools at the age of twenty-four."

In the January, 1973 issue of the Izard County Historian (Volume 4 Number 1), Karr Shannon's widow, Ollie Fudge Shannon (also known as Mrs. Karr) wrote:

 "Shannon lived at Lunenburg until he was 18 years of age. During his early childhood, he suffered every childhood disease known -having measles, whooping cough, and typhoid fever the same year. Either disease might have been enough to kill any small child, however, he survived. His numerous bouts with disease left his hearing impaired for life. He often said this "was an asset." It enabled him to read and concentrate with people talking all around him. He loved to read and during his last years read constantly. I'm sure he read 200 or more books during his last year."
Karr Shannon at "Poss" Haley's Store
 Mr. Shannon shared a lot about his childhood in Lunenburg in his "Just Nozzin' Around" series of articles he wrote while at The Melbourne Times. One example can be found in the April, 1984 issue of the Izard County Historian which had been printed in "The Times'" August 27, 1970:

"I remember the old blacksmith shop at Lunenburg. The bellows for the forge were of the most antiquated pattern, badly worn, ponderous, working with a groan at every move -sounding like some huge animal dying in agony. The bellows leaked mysteriously so that faster pumping was required to put the white heat into the metal on the forge.
"The village smithy was usually a fair carpenter. He made a specialty of building coffins for the demise of families too poor to invest in a store-bought container. During my sojourn in Izard County I patronized eight different blacksmiths and never did business with one who was not strictly honest. I never knew one who over-charged. As a boy, I spent many an hour around the old shop, waiting for plowpoints to be sharpened, waiting for a horse to be shod, or just enjoying the pastime of watching the sparks fly from the anvil. There was a time when there possibly were 20 to 25 blacksmith shops in Izard County, at least one for just about every town and hamlet. I wonder how many are in operation today."
Karr Shannon clearly adored Lunenburg and treasured his childhood there. Another disappointment with his 1947 book, A History of Izard County, however, is the lack of details about the history of this little community  Perhaps, again, it can be attributed to his overlying purpose in writing the book which was to paint the area as normal and progressive on the heels of bad publicity. It appears that a lot of history was omitted in his effort.

Following are the passages about Lunenburg from Karr's 1947 work:

The Place

"Lunenburg is an old settlement. It was a pretty fair town for several years before the Civil War, but a post office was not established there until February 3, 1868. Robert R. Case was the first postmaster. The office was discontinued May 12, 1868. Exactly two years later, it was re-established with John Carney as postmaster. It was again discontinued Novemeber 8, 1872. It was re-established August 11, 1873, with Harvey R. Landers as postmaster. The office played out again April 9, 1883, but resumed permanent operation April 13, 1891, with William G. Cypert as postmaster.
"When the post office was established the first time, the question of a name came up. There was already a general store in operation. The merchant, "Bob" Case, asked a group of loafers what to name the post office. An old German man, who liked his "dram," was pretty well organized at the time, and probably seeing visions of his old town left behind said:  "Call her Lunenburg, by God!"
"Mrs. Zelda Banning is the present postmaster .  NOTE - The post -office was finally discontinued July 31, 1955
" A school building, with a lodge hall upstairs, was built shortly after the close of the Civil War and remained in use for school purposes until a few years ago when the district built a new stone building. The old school building is now used as a church house by the Baptists. The school bell which is still in use is said to be the first bell ever brought to the county.
"The Rocky Bayou Baptist Association, still active and growing over a large area, had its birth here over 100 years ago.  NOTE - The Rocky Bayou Baptist Association is still in existence.
 The People
"Mack Cypert, for many years surveyor of Izard County, was born in the Hidden Creek area, near Luinenburg. After complete\ing courses in the common schools, he attended the Lacrosse Collegiate Institute for two years. He attended the Southwest Texas State Normal, San Marcos, Texas, in 1915-16. He taught school a total of about 30 years. He first became surveyor of the county in 1906, and served at intervals for years, being in this capacity at the time of his death January 19, 1931.
"Mr. Cypert was well read and a pretty good authority on most anything. He was a good stenographer, well versed in both law and engineering, and once wrote a song which sold well as sheet music. He never married.
*      *      *      *      *

" E.G. Landers, one of the pioneer merchants of Izard County, was born in Tennessee May 7, 1846, and came with his parents to Arkansas in 1854. He began operating a cotton gin at Lunenburg at the age of 22 and also followed the carpenter's trade for some time. In 1864 he joined the Confederate army, remaining about a year when he surrendered at Jacksonport, Arkansas.
" After the close of the war, he returned to Lunenburg and in 1877 engaged in the mercantile business there. In 1880 he established a business in Melbourne known by the firm name of Landers & Company. The business is still being operated, and is the oldest established mercantile business in the county. Mr. Landers was also interested in farming and livestock and had considerable real estate holdings when he died April 10, 1927.
" Associated with E.G. Landers in business for many years was his son, J. Hayden Landers, who was born at Lunenburg March 12, 1881. He entered the mercantile business with his father in 1901. He operated the store until his death in November, 1946. The latter Mr. Landers was also an extensive landowner and interested in fine livestock. He was an official in the Bank of Melbourne for years, chairman of the board of deacons of the Melbourne Baptist Church for 20 years, and was a member of the various boards connected with civic and agricultural improvements. His widow lives at Melbourne and his two sons, Earl Landers and Dr. Gardner Landers, live at Batesville. Dr. Landers was a colonel in the last World War."

Thus is basically the sum total of Shannon's remarks about his childhood home in A History of Izard County. One must wonder why he didn't at least mention the skirmish that took place here in  January of 1864. Especially since he does mention the following:

"Shortly after the Civil War a resident of near Lunenburg, a Mr. Nail, had been robbed of a considerable amount of money. At about the same time, a suspicious stranger appeared at the town. A group of citizens, some of whom were later prominent in the business and professional affairs of the county, according to a story that was familiar years ago, took the stranger in custody for the purpose of questioning him. He proved to be a stubborn and uncommunicative chap. As an inducement toward supplying wanted information a rope was placed about his neck and passed over a limb of a sycamore tree. It would be drawn tight so that the stranger's toes would barely touch the ground and at his signal would be relaxed, but on each occasion he would refuse to talk. It was decided to scare the man into loquaciousness. But the questioners miscalculated their strength and the man's neck was snapped. He was buried in a grave from which a northerner had been exhumed a short time before. No investigation or arrest was ever made."
The open grave where the stranger was buried was the one in which Asa.A. Williams of the 4th Arkansas Mounted Infantry was buried after being slain during the Lunenburg Skirmish, January 20th, 1864. It was the Williams family who exhumed his body and contrary the passage above, was not from the North but from Arkansas.

We'll be sticking to the theme of Lunenburg over the next week on the blog. This weekend, we'll quote other sources and share more information about Lunenburg. For a mid-week post next week, we'll learn about Karr Shannon's remarks on the Civil War in Izard County and discuss them as well.

Photo of Karr Shannon at "Poss" Haley's Store from October 1976 issue of Izard County Historian (Volume 7 Number 4)


Nicole Rooney said...

Thanks for the history on Lunenburg. I lived there from birth to four years of age, and recently have been researching it along with other areas of Izard that I was raised in. Your blog has been very helpful.

Al-Ozarka said...

You're very welcome, Nicole. So are your encouraging words of thanks.

David Haley said...

It was great to see a picture of Mr. Shannon looking into my great grandfather's old store. I was wondering if anyone has a picture of Jasper Haley's store when it was opened for business. Thank You.

Anonymous said...

Where was it located?

Anonymous said...

Is there a list of the soldiers in this skirmish? My ggrandpa Barton Sexton enlisted in Izard Co.and was captured in Nevada Co., MO.I know he was in several skirmishes before captured.