Marks Family Reunion number 135


Entrance to Marks Cemetery area

You can tell when you see the first vestiges of Marks Cemetery that it's not going to be an average country last resting place.

Marks Cemetery in Cleveland County, Arkansas is worth the trip. If you are a history nut, put it on your bucket list. If you simply want to see something you won’t see anywhere else, it fills the bill. It’s kind of a park and kind of an outdoor museum carved out the southeast Arkansas boondocks.

pit barbeque

See the pork barbeque pit at Corndancer dot-com

If you can wangle an invitation, the best time to visit the site is for a few hours on the first Sunday morning in June when the Marks descendants gather for their annual family reunion an event dating back to 1877. More than one of these family members can regale you with historic tidbits, which others will corroborate with a reasonable degree of accuracy. You will also eat well. Very well. Speaking of eating, before we go too much further, may I direct you the start of this story on the Photo of the Week Page at Corndancer dot-com. We’ll wait here until you return.

Salt Branch memorial

As you enter the cemetery grounds you run up on this historical marker at Salt Branch, a lazy little stream which meanders around the grounds. The marker bears a quote from the Cleveland County Herald, in a story on the Battle of Marks Mill: "So many horses and soldiers were killed that Salt Branch ran red with blood." In the battle Confederate forces ambushed a Union Supply train and captured more than 1,000 prisoners.

Most of the acreage around the well-tended cemetery is unique. It was smack-dab in the middle of the legendary battleground of the Battle of Marks Mill site during the War Between the States. The Marks family had called the area home for 28 years when the battle took place on April 25, 1862.

By the 1950s, the family cemetery had gone the way of many other rural places of final rest after family members moved “to town” or out of the state. It showed evidence of overgrowth and neglect. Some family members imbued with a good case of well placed righteous indignation decided enough was enough and got the group organized to clean it up and maintain that status.

See more reunion and ground pictures in our Weekly Grist Gallery.

horse drawn tobacco planter

This is a horse-drawn tobacco planter. The plaque reads, "Purchased in Nashville, Tenessee. Used in the late 1800s to early 1900s. Brought to AR by Knowlton Broach to plant sweet potato slips. Edgar Colvin 4-2002."

Along the way, some brilliant Marks descendant minds decided that since this place was of historic value, why not sprinkle the landscape with historic artifacts, memorials, and informational plaques. Once the idea took wings, it engaged a ratchet and placement of historic accoutrements and thingamajigs continues. The latest entries are a couple of unknown soldier monuments standing side-by-side on the entrance road to the cemetery placed in September 2010 by Edgar and Sue Colvin (she’s a Marks, he married in). Appropriately, one monument memorializes Confederate Soldiers and the other reverently remembers Union Soldiers. Nobody is taking sides now, just respecting history.

horse drawn stalk cutter

This old horse drawn stalk cutter is near the cemetery entrance. The blade and mechanical setup is similar to a reel type lawnmower.

You won’t find a lot of Civil War cannons and other war left-overs at the site, but you will find a treasure trove of  old horse-drawn farm implements including, a row-crop planter, a couple of mowers, a hay rake, a bulbous tobacco planter, and a bunch more. You’ll also see an old railroad switch doo-dad with a nearby short section of track festooned with a cattle guard that looks like a medieval torture device.

See more reunion and ground pictures in our Weekly Grist Gallery.

Young whitetail deer buck

This young buck gives me a curious look. I had just completed shooting a huge Catalpa tree which will see in a future post, when I looked up and saw him. By the time I grabbed the camera with the long lens, he was long gone. The location was Prairie Road in Cleveland County, Arkansas.

Though the site is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, all of the improvements, artifacts, additions, maintenance and use of the land are placed, privately funded and supported by like minded individuals who believe there is great value to the site. The gallons of sweat equity that have and continue to fuel this hallowed place are astronomical. It’s a testimonial to a family that places a premium on being who they are and knowing where they came from.

flag in woods

Click the flag for more reunion pictures

See more pictures in our Weekly Grist gallery.  More reunion. More grounds. 28 high resolution pictures in all.

We shot more reunion pictures than we had room for in this article, so we’ve put all of the keeper pictures, with captions, in our weekly on-line gallery.

Thanks for dropping by,

Joe Dempsey,

Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind
http://www.joedempseyphoto.com/

http://www.joedempseycommunications.com/

http://www.corndancer.com/joephoto/photohome.html

Greeting, eating, and sweetening the pot


Inside of Selma Methodist Church

Most of the inside trim, pews, room partitions, and balcony were removed from the Selma Methodist Church building when work started to rebuild the foundation. The church was jacked up eight feet in the air to facilitate foundation reconstruction. Fortunately for us, the pulpit appurtenances were spared the ignominy of storage. What you see was hand carved and is in very good condition. The patina of the floor comes from more than 130 years foot traffic. Most people believe it was never painted or shellacked.

The inside of Selma Methodist Church at Selma, Arkansas looks a bit disheveled right now. So would you if you had your innards nearly turned inside out by the back sides blows of Hurricanes Gustav and Ike.

Church picnic serving line

See more Selma pictures at Corndancer dot-com.

The church building, completed and first used in 1874 and narrowly escaping that disaster, has undergone some serious work for stabilization since that fateful March in 2008 when the storms nearly pounded it into the ground. You can get more details on the start of this story at the Corndancer dot-com Photo of the Week page. We’ll wait here while you look.

We were there for the first official fundraiser held by the Selma Methodist Church Preservation Society, a group of dedicated Selma Church fans whose sole purpose is to return the church to its like-new condition. They are in the first phase which is to stabilize the structure and bring further deterioration to a halt. See more Selma event pictures in our Weekly Grist gallery

You  can see pictures of the complete church interior and read a recent article detailing the church history were published in the December 2010 issue of Rural Arkansas, the official magazine of Arkansas Electrical Cooperatives.

Picnic serving line

The fine southern cuisine prepared on the grounds before your very eyes went fast. The cooks were efficient and nary a soul went hungry. Gets one in a generous mood.

 The storm damage to the church was so severe that it was declared unsafe for any events and/or any entry for other than maintenance, and then at extreme risk. This fundraiser was the first event held in the church since the storm damage in 2008. Previously, it was frequently used for weddings, funerals, and other events. Even attendees took turns ringing the church bell, a welcome sound to the community. It is said the bell was cast with 100 silver dollars melted into the metal before the pour to improve the sound. To my ears, it worked.

Selma Methodist Church

Selma Methodist Church, May 21, 2011, the first day it was open to the public since the storm damage in March 2008.

See more pictures of the Church and the fundraiser event in our Weekly Grist Gallery.

 Part of the fund raiser was an auction of donated items. The auction was conducted by guest auctioneer, Mark McElroy, County Judge of neighboring Desha County, Arkansas. For non-Arkansans, the title “County Judge,” in Arkansas is an executive title rather than a jurist title. The position is roughly equivalent to what folks in other states would call a county mayor. Judge McElroy, a man of many talents is one of those individuals who has never met a stranger. He kept the crowd entertained.

Auctioneer

Judge Mark McElroy works to pry extra dollars from a bidder, while his "Vanna White, Mr. Riggins (sunglasses), watches the action.

The trip to Selma took me through the Coleman community where you will find the  “Look-See Tree,”  a fine White Oak on the premises of Olin Tucker. The tree is designated as an  Arkansas Historic Tree.

Arkansas Look-See tree

Olin Tucker's Look-see tree with full summer foliage.

Parting shot(s)

Meandering around, we find stuff that makes us smile. We presume this is the right stuff to make you smile as well. Driving north on Hwy. 70 after our junk yard adventure a couple of weeks ago, we saw a home-made sign promoting fig sales. Being curious, we followed the area to discover that not only could one purchase figs, you could also drive away with a new dog house.

figs for sale

If you are looking for figs, this is the place. The sign appears to be a recycled day-glo highway warning sign of some sort. Adaptive re-use, I believe, is the term.

Figs and dog houses

Once you cross the railroad and levee which comprises the 90 feet between the first sign and entrance to the fig emporium, you discover that, as a bonus, you can buy a dog house as well. Diversification is a good thing in business these days.

Schnauzer

Click on the dog to see more Selma pictures in our Weekly Grist gallery

See our Weekly Grist Gallery, this week with 55 pictures of the Selma Church Fundraiser event.

See Pepper the Schnauzer in this gallery the one and only Schnauzer to attend the Selma Methodist Church fundraiser. Well socialized, he fit right in. There you will also see more pictures of the church, the auction and the musicians as well as the cooks and attendees.

This collection is a glimpse at a southern on-the-grounds “git-together” as one should see such an event. Even if you are not an anthropologist you will probably see something you like.

Thanks for dropping by,
Joe Dempsey,
Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind

http://www.joedempseyphoto.com/
http://www.joedempseycommunications.com/
http://www.corndancer.com/joephoto/photohome.html

Meandering through the Piney Woods


Jonquils on Cross road north of Kingsland Arkansas

My first jonquil sighting of 2011. This is the earliest sighting in several years. The yellow posies are on Cross Road, north of Kingsland, Arkansas.

old service station

See more pictures at Corndancer dot-com

Cross Road north of Kingsland, Arkansas looked promising on the map and lived up to my fondest expectations for Nikon fodder. I had not gone far when I spied my first jonquils of the year. Considering that these flowers were covered with snow not long ago, they are tougher than they look.

Before we go down Cross Road further, you may want to check out how this story started by going to the Photo of the Week page on Corndancer dot-com. You will see a couple of old buildings in Kingsland.

I followed Cross Road and came to Cross Roads Cemetery. It appeared that some patriotic-minded relatives and/or friends had seen fit to decorate a family plot with a short flag pole from which Old Glory was happily flying in the afternoon breeze. The decorators also festooned the plot with weather-proof flowers. The overall cemetery was cared for much like the fairways of a pro-tour golf course. These country folks are serious about their cemeteries.

Grave site with American flag

The Robinson family plot at Cross Roads Cemetery on Cross Road north of Kingsland Arkansas. The flag pole is wrapped in tinsel. This site called for a salute,

old fire tower

Old fire tower on Arkansas Highway 229 north of Fordyce near the Bunn community. The discolored part of the Pine trees is light from the setting sun.

If you resist the temptation to turn off Cross Road and continue, the road eventually swings due west and butts into US Highway 167 just north of Fordyce, Arkansas. Turn south go a quarter mile or so and turn west on Bunn-McGriff Road and the territory looks about the same, but nothing spectacular. The road eventually butts into Arkansas Highway 229 where I found a couple of good shots.

The first find was an old church which would be on the ground were it not for the Divine intervention of the trees surrounding the building. See a picture of this old church on our Weekly Grist Gallery. As I was preparing to shoot the church, back in the woods 25 yards or so from the highway, a truck pulled up behind my truck and a man got out and began to write down my license plate number.

When I saw him pull up, I reverted to a former life and stood still. Movement is usually what gives up your position. I finally hailed him and asked if he knew anything about the church, not mentioning his note taking procedure. He remembered the church and some animated revival services from his childhood, but not the church name.  Not surprising since the last services were probably in the fifties.

As our conversation continued, I noticed that he wearing a side-arm and his truck had blue lights embedded in the grill. Turns out he was a deputy in training, unusual for a guy with possum-blond hair like mine. Seems some miscreants have been raiding old home sites along the road and I suppose when he stopped he figured he would catch one. We parted on friendly terms.

The second find was the old fire tower you see at the right. At one time there was a large network of these towers spanning the forests of Arkansas which were manned by people you probably did not want to mess with since they regularly climbed what appeared to be a ten story building. Satellite imagery made these a thing of the past.

Before the towers there was a network of “Look-see” trees. These were tall trees on high points which afforded rangers a view nearly as good as the towers. And it was probably more fun to climb a tree than a tower. And – not nearly so far to climb.

There is more to discover.

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE

fire tower house

Weekly Grist Gallery - More pictures

See a close-up of the old tower-top “house,” another look at the flowers, and see the old church where the law and I had our friendly conversation. It’s all on our Weekly Grist Gallery. You’ll also see larger versions of the Corndancer pictures and the ones you’ve seen here, plus another old home site,

Joe Dempsey
Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind

http://www.joedempseycommunications.com/
http://www.joedempseyphoto.com/
http://www.corndancer.com/joephoto/photohome.html

Btfsplk or Addams?


What was probably a fine home in its time has now taken on the desheveled, creepy, haunted look relished by mystery fans and despised by the squeamish.

What was probably a fine home in its time has now taken on the disheveled, creepy, haunted look relished by mystery fans and despised by the squeamish.

When I saw this old house, now a bit on the mysterious side, I wondered, could this have been occupied by the Li’l Abner character and bad-luck artist,  Joe Btfsplk? Or perhaps by the equally famous champions of dark humor, the Addams Family?  Either would probably feel right at home. Speaking of which, this exploration had its beginnings on the Photo of the Week page at Corndancer dot com.  You are looking at the back yard of this house east of Ola, Arkansas on Arkansas Highway 28. To see a couple of front pictures and get in on the start of the story, click here, a very cool thing to do.

This room an addition to the house, is large and had large windows, both conditions unusual for homes of this age.

This room, an addition to the house, is large and had large windows, both conditions unusual for homes of this age.

The right side of the house is an addition and is a large room, unusual by the standards of rural residences of that day and time. I’m guessing it is in the 90-100 year old age, but be advised, “guessing” is the operative word. The room also had large windows, also a bit on the unusual side for a house of this age. The open area to the left of the picture is the back of the breezeway through the middle of the house.

The old "living room" is a repository of evidence.

The old "living room" is a repository of evidence. But who dares to investigate?

Lest you think I have lost what few marbles I have left, I did not enter the house to shoot the picture above. Having a tall tripod, a tall skeletal structure, a short ladder and an open window saved the day for an interior shot. I like to include these when I can because I suspect many people are curious as to what is in the inside of abandoned houses. I suspect that at some time, probably more than once, a transient, not too choosy about accommodations, dragged the bedding into the room and built a small fire. Not at the top of the pecking order, but, any port in a storm I suppose.

Methinks there is some value in almost everything we see or hear. This old house is an example. Most of us should be grateful we do not have a wind tunnel through the middle of our respective residences. We should also be grateful that Al Capp and Charles Addams saw fit to provide us with countless laughs. And in Al Capp’s case, some insights into ourselves and our society.

Thanks for dropping by,
Joe

 

Winchester, no cathedral


This sign is the last vestige of fomer retail activity at Winchester, Arkansas. Winchester is not by itself. Thousands of other small towns have suffered a similar fate. Others, not yet so afflicted will follow. It is the way of our times.

This sign is the last vestige of fomer retail activity at Winchester, Arkansas. Winchester is not by itself. Thousands of other small towns have suffered a similar fate. Others, not yet so afflicted will follow. It is the way of our times.

If you breeze through the intersection of US Highway 65 and Arkansas Highway 138 and think you’ve just passed through Winchester, guess again. What you’ve passed through is the eastern most suburb of Winchester. Had you made a right turn on 138, in a quarter mile or so, you’d see Winchester.  Winchester has a post office, a fire station and a city hall. And a still standing Sinclair sign. And folks.  And their domiciles.

A good place to click

A lot of folks wind up here as a result of visiting the Photo of the Week page on Corndancer dot com. Now that you know about Winchester, click here to find out about Chester and Lester as well, at the photo of the week page.

The best laid plans …

Winchester was not a part of the plan for this post. Some magnificent cypress trees about another 45 minutes south were the intended target. However, at about Winchester, the pickup engine began some obnoxious behavior and I decided to do a 180. The guages were all happy, so one presumes, it’s a sullen microchip somewhere. So I figured a whirl through Winchester (the western part) would be OK. I was rewarded with the Sinclair sign. Probably, the former station had a social function as well as its utilitarian destiny. Most small town filling stations did.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch

Blooming Bradford Pear trees frame the Jefferson County Courthouse on Main Street in Pine Bluff, Arkansdas.

Blooming Bradford Pear trees frame the Jefferson County Courthouse on Main Street in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. These trees line both sides of the street.

Now returned back to minutes from home, there’s a fast-fading opportunity, to wit: blooming Bradford Pear trees. Our home-town downtown is lined with those suckers. They are peaking out now. In 24 to 36 hours, the trees will transform from white to green as the new leaves take hold. The time to shoot is now.

Bradford Pear Blooms at the Arts and Science Center for Southeast Arkansas on Main Street in Pine Bluff AR.

Bradford Pear blooms at the Arts and Science Center for Southeast Arkansas on Main Street in Pine Bluff AR. It's late Sunday. The parking lot is usually not empty.


Last, but certainly not least

Old Glory and Bradford Pear blooms greet visitors to this drive-in branch bank just off Main Street in Pine Bluff AR. The tree is not actually as high as the flag. The view is from a service lane looking up. “Forced perspective” makes you think the tree is taller than the flag.

Three cheers for the red white, white, and blue.

Three cheers for the red white, white, and blue.


Update on the pickup

March 4, 2009 — Nothing serious. Some ignition components showing signs of age. Joe Webb, 12th degree master mechanic,  diagnosed the issues and did the fix. Well, after 210,000 miles, what can one expect. It is now hauling booty again!

Thanks for dropping by,

Joe Dempsey

Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind

What’s left at Lester


Formerly "the store" at Lester AR. Now it is an eye-popping display of artifacts from the community. Notice symmetry in the arrangement. You see a lot of antlers. This is south Arkansas. Antlers are to be expected.

Formerly "the store" at Lester AR. Now it is an eye-popping display of artifacts from the community. Notice symmetry in the arrangement. You see a lot of antlers. This is south Arkansas. Antlers are to be expected.

What you’re seeing was formerly “the store” at Lester AR. This story started on the Photo of the Week page on Corndancer dot com. To see the first part (a very cool thing to do), click here, (safe to do).

Lester was once a thriving rural community in south Arkansas between Chidester and Camden. All that’s left now at Lester is this old store and two residences. After shooting the store, I found my way to the Chidester General Store and was greeted by Gracie, the proprietor. It was Saturday afternoon and she was open for business. Since my previous source of information was less than substantial, I asked if she knew anything about Lester. She allowed yes, with the caveat that her level of Lester knowledge was limited — but a couple of her friends in the back of the store might be able to help. I joined the conversation at a friendly table.

     The store sign is the only sure clue you are in Lester. Hanging from a salvaged single-tree, the sign is probably a left over from when the railroad ran through Lester.

The store sign is the only sure clue you are in Lester. Hanging from a salvaged single-tree, the sign is probably a left over from when the railroad ran through Lester.

The two gentlemen at the table gave the same caveat, but did provide a couple of nuggets. Turns out that at one time, the railroad went through Lester, plus, they had a post office and a school. Schools, for those uninitiated in the ways of rural America, are very important anchors for these small towns. Schools give people a reason to be there and go there.

This collage on the west wall features, ice block tongs, log tongs, what appear to be bolt cutters, sheaves, a double open-end wrench and a couple of things that escape me. What's impressive is the precise symmetry. There's an art director lurking in there somewhere.

This collage on the west wall features buggy springs, a horseshoe, a barrel hoop, ice block tongs, log tongs, what appear to be bolt cutters, sheaves, a double open-end wrench, a one-man crosscut saw, and a couple of things that escape me. What's impressive is the precise symmetry with a slight touch of imbalance. There's an art director lurking in there somewhere.

One of the men said that he started in school at Chidester in 1943 and that kids from Lester were in his class. That being so, he said, ” … meant that their school, in 1943 had already been consolidated.” My conjecture is that this was the first step in the downward slide. Most all at the table agreed that the store had been closed probably 40-50 years. So, the fate of Lester is all too familiar. The school, the railroad, the store, the people, egress in that order.

Promise made, promise kept. A foundation of advertising. After I noticed this sign, I decided that a visit to the store was required. Thanks to Gracie and her friends, our story had a little more substance. Thanks, y'all.

Deer corn promise made, deer corn promise kept. A foundation of good advertising. After I noticed this sign, I decided that a visit to the Chidester General Store was required. Thanks to Gracie and her friends at the store, our story had more substance. Thanks, y'all.

On the brighter side, the person who decorated the store had an admirable idea to keep the memories of community alive – and an eye for design. Most of the artifacts are symmetrically arranged with more than a modicum of precision. Many were cleaned up and painted. It is obvious that great care and deliberation were taken in placement of the items. It was meant to be appreciated. And we do.

Thanks for dropping by,

Joe

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