Izard County—The Arrival of the Settlers—Circuit and Probate Courts—Military Memoirs—The County Formed—The County Seat Located—Public Buildings Erected—Election Returns—Church Organizations—Towns and Villages—Educational Development—The County Bounded—Statistics Showing its Desirability as a Place of Residence—Population—Biography.
There is a spot of earth supremely blest.
A dearer, sweeter spot than all the rest,
Where man, creation’s tyrant, casts aside,
His sword and sceptre, pageantry and pride.
That spot’s thy home.—Montgomery.
A dearer, sweeter spot than all the rest,
Where man, creation’s tyrant, casts aside,
His sword and sceptre, pageantry and pride.
That spot’s thy home.—Montgomery.
HE exact time and place of the making of the first settlement of the territory now composing Izard County is uncertain. It is evident, however, that immigration must have commenced very soon after the beginning of the present century, points of location being, in general, along White and Strawberry Rivers. Among the early settlers in the vicinity of the former stream were Daniel Hively, Elbert and Henry Benbrook, the family of the father of William and Hill Dillard, the Jefferys, Moses Bishop, the Harrises and George and James Partee. Daniel Jeffery settled below Mount Olive, Jehoida, his brother, a mile above, and James, another brother, at or near the mouth of Piney Creek. Of the Harrises there were four brothers: Augustus. Henry, James and Richard. Augustus located on the east side of the river, in (the present) Izard County, the others on the opposite side, now Stone County. Daniel Hively settled at the mouth of Piney Creek, and there built a water-power grist-mill very early. Among the first to locate on Strawberry River were the Simpsons, Billingsleys and Finleys, John Gray taking up his residence on Rocky Bayou, and James Wren at Lunenburg. Other very early comers to the county were Ambrose, Harvey, William and James Creswell.
Later came the Lancasters, the Walkers, the Watkinses, Richard, Robert and William Powell. Thomas Richardson. Samuel Bingham, William and James Woods, Col. Thomas Black, the Arnolds, Jesse Hinkle, the Robinsons and many others. Both the early and subsequent settlers of the county principally came from Tennessee. A few were from Georgia, and some other Southern States, but few, if any, from Northern States. The early settlers here suffered in common with all who moved so far back from the Mississippi the many privations of frontier life. It was not long, however, until boats came up White River and furnished such provisions as could not be produced at home. The people of Izard County are Intelligent, kind and hospitable. Society now is all that could be desired, and churches are numerous in all settled portions. Subsequent pages contain more detailed mention of the county’s pioneers and prominent citizens.
Court affairs, of course, early occupied attention. The county court was established in 1829, when Arkansas was a territory. Prior to that date the county business had all been transacted in the circuit court. This court meets on the first Mondays of January, April, July and October, in each year. The probate court meets on the third Mondays of March, June, September and December.
The Izard circuit court convenes on the second Monday in April and October, in each year. It belongs to the Fourteenth judicial circuit, composed of the counties of Izard, Boone, Baxter, Marion, Fulton, Searcy and Newton, of which R. H. Powell, of Melbourne, is the judge.
The legal bar of Izard County is composed of the following named attorneys: Ransom Gulley, John H. Woods, J. B. Baker, F. M. Hanley, Moreau Ashley, S. W. Woods, and E. B. Bradshaw. Judge Powell, when not on the bench, is also a member of the bar.
Aside from the war period, there has never been but one or two murders committed within the county, as it is now composed, and not a legal execution of a criminal has occurred here. Other crimes have been committed frequently.
At the approach of the Civil War, when the question of secession was first discussed, a majority of the people of Izard County seemed opposed to it, but when actual hostilities commenced, all but a few were naturally in full sympathy with the Southern cause, and soon thereafter favored the secession of the State. Of the several companies of soldiery raised within the county for the Confederate army, one, gathered by Capt. Deason, served in the Seventh Arkansas Regiment; four, commanded, respectively, by Capts. C. C. Elkins, T. N. Smith, Hugh A. Barnett and T. J. Mason, became a part of the Ninth Arkansas Regiment; two, commanded, respectively, by Capts. C. Cook and Richard Powell, served in Col. Freeman’s regiment of cavalry; three, commanded, respectively, by Capts. T. M. Gibson, R. C. Matthews and Samuel Taylor, formed a part of Col. Shaler’s regiment. A portion of a company was raised by Capt. John H. Dye, the other part being raised in Independence County, and a part of another was raised by Capt. James Huddleston, the other being recruited in what is now Sharp County. Some individuals went out and joined companies raised in adjoining counties. Thus ten companies, besides the fractions of other companies, were furnished by the county for the Confederate army.
Early in the war period, most of the Union men here removed to Rolla, Mo., and were there organized into a company by Capt. L. D. Toney, and served in the Federal army. All the able bodied men of the county, and many boys in their "teens," joined the armies. Only the old and feeble were left with the women and children. There was no fighting or bushwhacking among the citizens. The county, however, was over-run by scouting parties from the contending armies, and while but little burning was done, all stock and provisions that could be found were seized and carried away, thus leaving the citizens in great want for food. Parties of women, each accompanied by an old man, frequently hauled cotton inside of the Federal lines and exchanged it for salt and other necessities. Salt was also obtained by extracting it from the earth under old smoke houses. Meat was concealed from the scouting parties by hiding it in straw beds, in the rocks and under brush heaps. Grain was also hid in peculiar places. J. B. Hunt, the postmaster at Melbourne, states that he saved his corn by shelling it and hiding it in the hollow walls of his house, between the weather-boarding and the inside-boarding, and had a hole at the bottom through which he drew it out on going to the mill. Others, no doubt, saved their grain in a similar way.
The county of Izard was organized in accordance with an act of the legislature of the Territory of Arkansas, approved October 17, 1825. It was named in honor of George Izard, who was the governor of the Territory, and contained territory since cut off in the formation of Fulton, Baxter and Stone Counties. Various acts have been passed since its formation, by which it has been created as at present.
The original county seat was located on White River, at the mouth of Big North Fork, now in Baxter County. Soon after it was moved to Athens, on White River, at the mouth of Piney Creek, and from there, about the year 1844, to Mount Olive, in Section 31, Township 16 north, Range 10 west, another point on White River. Here it remained until May 15, 1875, when it was taken to its present site at Melbourne. The first court house erected at the original site of the county seat was a hewed log cabin. The second was a small frame structure, built at Athens, and the third was also a frame erected at Mount Olive. The court-house at Melbourne was built in 1878, but on the 11th of April, 1889, it was consumed by fire, with all the public records and papers, supposed to have been of incendiary origin, as the fire occurred in the morning before daylight. The question of removing the county seat to some other point is now being agitated, but the probability is that it will remain at its present location.
The only public building the county possesses is the jail and jailer’s residence combined, at Melbourne. This is a wooden building, the jail proper being frame on the outside, with a wall of squared timbers on the inside. The county owns a poor farm, but it has never been improved or made available for the support of the paupers. The latter are let out on contract for their support, to the lowest responsible bidder.
The following is a list of the names of the county officers of Izard County, and the dates of their terms of service from the organization of the county to the present time, as compiled from the report of the secretary of State:
Judges: Matthew Adams, 1829-38; J. Jeffery, 1833-38: B. Hawkins, 1840-42; J. A. Harris, 1842-44; James Wren, 1844-46; J. A. Harris, 1846-48; G. H. Morton, 1848-50; Henry Cole, 1850-52; J. J. Sams, 1852-54; B. C. Hollowell, 1854-58; T. Black, 1858-60; H. H. Harris, 1860-62; Thomas Black, 1862.64; A. C. Jeffery, 1864-68; William Byler, 1868-72; commissioners, 1872-74; G. W. Shaw, 1874-80; J. A. Byler, 1880-82; W. Grimmett, 1882-86; H. H. Harris, present incumbent, first elected in 1886.
Clerks: J. P. Houston, 1825-30; Jesse Adams, 1830-32; J. P. Houston, 1832-38; B. H. Johnson. 1838-44; C. P. Lancaster, 1844-46; A. C. Jeffery, 1846-48; R. M. Haggard, 1848-52; William Wood, 1852-54; H. H. Harris, 1854-58; W. C. Dixon, 1858-60; H. H. Harris, 1866-68; I. H. Talley, 1868 72; F. W. Penin, 1872-74; D. W. Billingsley, 1874-70; J. N. Craig, 1870-78; H. H. Harris, 1878-84; W. K. Estes, present incumbent, elected in 1884, re-elected and served continuously since.
Sheriffs: John Adams, 1825-30; John Hargrove, 1830-35; Daniel Jeffery, 1835-30; J. A. Harris, 1836-38; D. K. Lloyd, 1838-44; Miles Jeffery, 1844-40; S. E. Rossen, 1846-50; S. J. Mason. 1850-56; John Woods, 1850-58; A. Adams, 1858-60; W. J. Cagle, 1800-08; R. L. Landers, 1868-72; J. M. Hinkle, 1872-78; R. L. Landers, 1878-82; J. S. Roberts, 1882-86; R. L. Landers, present incumbent, first elected in 1886.
Treasurers: W. B. Carr, 1836-38; A. Creswell, 1838-40; S. H. Creswell, 1840-42; Jacob Wolf, 1842-44; A. M
Coroners: H. C. Roberts. 1829-30; J. Blyeth, 1830-35; Jesse Adams, 1835-36; H. W. Bandy, 1840-42; R. C. Moore, 1842-48; G. W. Neal, 1848-50; J. D. Churchill, 1850-52; D. Jeffery. 1852-54; R. Harris, 1854-56; S. T. Martin, 1856-58; R. Landers. 1858-02; Jesse Hinckle, 1802-04; J. A. Byler. 1804-06; R. Landers, 1866-68; J. G. Richardson, 1808-72; J. H. Roten, 1872-74; J. F. Cornelius, 1874-76; F. M. Hall. 1870-78; Squire Wood, 1878-80; J. R. Beaver. 1880-86; John Schell. 1886-88: S. F. Heaves, present incumbent, elected in 1888.
Surveyors: William Clement, 1830-32; A. Adams, 1835-36; Jesse Adams. 1830-38; James Davis, 1838-40; William Seymour. 1840-42; J. M. Pugh, 1842-44; F. M. Copeland. 1844-46; R. Decker, 1846-48: Cyrus Crosby, 1848-52; J. Byler, 1852-56; J. W. Rector, 1856-58; A. C. Hardin. 1858-62; J. W. Rector, 1862-64; J. C. Claiborne, 1866-08; R. Sanders, 1868-72; J. A. Claiborne, 1872-76; Joseph Hixon, 1876-80; Jacob Franks, 1880-82; J. A. Claiborne, 1882-88; E. L. Billingsley, present incumbent, elected in 1888.
Assessors: P. F. Heasler, 1868-72; W. O. Dillard, 1872-74; James Green, 1874-80: W. C. Hammond, 1880-84; Robert Gray, 1884-86; James Gray, 1886-88; P. J. Puckett, present incumbent, elected in 1888.
Representatives in constitutional conventions: 1836, Charles R. Sanders; 1861, A. Adams; 1868, W. W. Adams; 1874, Ransom Gulley.
The first representative of the county in the Territorial legislature was Jacob Wolf, and the first one in the State legislature was Thomas Culp.The first State senator from the county was C. R. Sanders.
The following will show the political aspect of Izard County. At the September election, 1888, James P. Eagle (Dem. ) received 1,328 votes for the office of governor, and C. M. Norwood, his opponent, 779 votes. At the presidential election, 1888, the several candidates received votes as follows: Cleveland (Dem.), 1,187; Harrison (Rep.), 378; Streeter (U. L.), 68; Fisk (Pro.), 7.
Religious affairs, here as elsewhere, date from the first settlement of the community. As usual, the Methodists and Baptists were the pioneer Christian workers of the Territory, followed by the Cumberland Presbyterians and Christians. The organizations of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, located within the county, are embraced in three circuits. The Melbourne circuit. Rev. W. L. King, pastor, has eight appointments; the Newburg circuits. Rev. William A. Peck, pastor, has five appointments, and the La Crosse and Evening Shade circuit. Rev. J. S. Brooke, pastor, has also five appointments, the latter being in Sharp County. The aggregate membership of each, as shown by the last conference minutes, is as follows: Melbourne, 399; Newburg, 684; La Crosse and Evening Shade, 301; making 1,384 in all. Of the Methodist Episcopal Church, there is but one organization in the county.
Of the Missionary Baptist Church nineteen organizations are known, sixteen of which belong to the Rocky Bayou Association, two to the Big Creek Association, and one to Independence Association. Those belonging to the first named are Melbourne, Lunenburg and Franklin, of which Elder J. L. Brown is pastor; Saints’ Rest, Bellview, Mount Nebo, No. 2, and Piney Bayou, of which Elder J. J. Vest is pastor; Mount Pleasant and Bethel, of which Elder J. D. J. Faulkner is pastor; Zion Hill, Concord, Fairview and Philadelphia, of which Elder William Duren is pastor; Pleasant Valley, with Elder S. A. Merchant as pastor; Mount Nebo No. 1, with Elder J. H. Soden as pastor, and Hidden Creek, which has no pastor at present. Those belonging to Big Creek Association are Cross Roads and New Prospect, while the one belonging to Independence Association is called Wilson Creek. The aggregate membership of these organizations within the county is between 700 and 800.
The ten organizations of the Christian Church here consist of Mill Creek, at Melbourne; Walnut Grove, Oxford, Franklin and Iuka. with Elder H. T. King as pastor; Kent Mill, Liberty, Pleasant Spring and Newburg, with Elder W. G. Cypert as pastor, and Twin Creek, with Elder G. H. Metheny as pastor. The aggregate membership is 503.
The organizations of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church are Mill Creek, at Melbourne, and Mount Olive, with Rev. P. M. Jeffery as pastor; Nubbin Ridge, Rev. R. H. Evans, pastor; Olive Branch, Rev. J. S. Bone, pastor; La Crosse. Rev. W. B. Baird, pastor; Barren Fork, Rev. A. C. Evans, pastor; Dry Town, Rev. J. S. Bone, pastor; Palestine, Rev. Clark, pastor: Rocky Glade and one or two other organizations. Many of the church organizations have Sunday-schools connected with them, and nearly all have regular preaching, and are doing good work in the cause of Christianity. There is an organization of the Adventists at La Crosse.
The towns and villages of the county are small and scattered, and no one has gained much ascendency over the others. Barren Fork, in the southeast part of the county, contains two general stores, one drug store, one grocery, two church houses, a school house, cotton-gin, and some shops, dwelling houses, etc.
Franklin, in the opposite northeast portion, has two general stores, a grist-mill, still-house, schoolhouse, Masonic hall and lodge, and an Odd Fellows’ hall and lodge.
Iuka is a very small post village on the line between Izard and Baxter Counties.
La Crosse, four miles northeast of Melbourne, contains two general stores, a drug store, a church edifice, two blacksmith shops, a Masonic hall and lodge, and the La Crosse Collegiate Institute. In the fall of 1883 a cyclone passing over this place and almost entirely demolished the buildings, besides killing a number of individuals.
Melbourne, the county seat, located near the center of the county, includes within its limits four general stores, three groceries, a drug store, two hotels, four church buildings, a Masonic and Odd Fellows’ hall and school-house combined, a lodge each of Masons and Odd Fellows, two feed stables, one newspaper (The Izard County Register, Democratic in politics, now in its eighth volume, and ably edited by its proprietor, Mr. Dave Craig), a steam grist-mill, mechanics" shops, etc., etc., but no court-house at present. Of the societies there is also an Encampment of Odd Fellows. The churches are Baptist, Methodist, Cumberland Presbyterian and Christian.
Newburg, a few miles northwest of Melbourne, has three general stores, a steam saw-mill, schoolhouse, blacksmith shop, a Masonic and Odd Follows’ hall and a lodge of each of these societies.
Oxford is in the north central part of the county. Three general stores, a steam grist-mill, three churches, a school-house and an Odd Fellow’s hall comprise its industries.
Pineville, in the northwest part of the county, contains a general store, a blacksmith shop, and a Masonic hall, church and schoolhouse combined.
Violet Hill is eight miles northeast of Melbourne. It has a store, steam grist-mill, blacksmith shop and a church.
At each of these points is a postoffice, and dwelling houses corresponding in number to the size of the place. The other postoffices in the county are Wideman, Sage, Gid, Alder, Rockford, Engle and Byler.
Prior to the inauguration of the present free school system there were no schools within Izard County, except a few sustained here and there by private individual enterprise. Education in those days for the masses was not advocated or encouraged, and truth compels the assertion that, even at this date, the facilities for popular education are not as well sustained as they ought to be. However, prejudice against free schools is wearing away, and the interest in their favor is slowly but gradually increasing. The following statistics compiled from the report of the State superintendent, for the year ending June 30, 1888, will show the progress of schools within the county: Scholastic population, white, 4,702, colored, 116, total, 4,818; number taught in the public schools, white, 2,572, colored, 19, total, 2,608; number of teachers employed, males, 47, females, 8, total, 55; average monthly salaries paid teachers, first grade, males, $40.25, females, $40; second grade, males, $37.50, females, §28.30; amount of revenue expended to sustain the public .schools, $9,433.45. According to these figures, only a little over one-half of the white scholastic population and about one-sixth of the colored scholastic population were taught in the public schools. It is believed, though, that the statistics do not give the whole facts, as the number taught in some schools was not reported. The wages paid should secure teachers of fair talent. The free school system is yet young, and will improve with age and experience.
The La Crosse Collegiate Institute, which has been sustained for many years at the town of LaCrosse, has gained considerable reputation as an institution of learning. It is now taught in connection with the public school of that place. There are eighty-four school districts within the county, and for the school year mentioned, thirty-four voted a local tax for school purposes.
Izard County is in Northeast Arkansas. It is bounded north by Fulton County, east by Sharp, south by Independence and Stone, and west by Stone and Baxter. It has an area of 600 square miles, with only about one-eighth of it improvised. Being an interior county it has as yet no railroad facilities, its nearest railroad station being at Cushman, in the adjoining county of Independence. The boundary lines are as follows: Beginning at the northwest corner of Section 1, in Township 18 north. Range 7 west, of the fifth principal meridian; thence south three miles; thence east one mile to the range line, between Ranges 6 and 7 west; thence south on the range line to the southeast corner of Section 25, Township 16 north, Range 7 west; thence west one and a half miles; thence south to the quarter-post between Sections 14 and 23 in Township 15 north, Range 7 west; thence west to the southwest corner of Section 16, same township and range; thence south 45° west, seven and a half miles to White River; thence up the middle of that river to the range line between Ranges 11 and 12, in Township 17 north; thence north on the range line to the township line between Townships 17 and 18 north; thence east to the middle of Range 11 west; thence north on section lines to the township line between Townships 18 and 19 north; thence east on the township line to the place of beginning.
The principal streams are White and Strawberry Rivers, both of which flow in a general south-easterly direction, the former on the southwestern boundary of the county, and the latter across the northeastern portion. Between these rivers there is a dividing ridge or water-shed in the same direction. The principal tributaries of White River within the county are Piney, Mill, Knob, Hurricane, Rocky Bayou and Lafferty Creeks. The principal tributary of Strawberry River is Caney Fork. There are some smaller tributaries of these streams, and altogether they form a complete system of drainage for the territory. Numerous excellent springs abound, and in most places good well water can be obtained at a depth of fifty feet. Cisterns are in general use. From the streams, springs, cisterns and wells, an abundant supply of excellent water for all purposes is obtained.
The surface of the county is generally broken and hilly, though there are some tracts of beautiful and gently undulating table lands. The highest points above sea level are said to be about 1,000 feet. A large percentage of the lands belong to the Government, and are subject to homestead entry. Of the entire area, a very small proportion is valley, or bottom lands. The soil of the latter is alluvial and exceedingly productive, while that of the uplands is light and sandy, and not so productive. Contrary to the general rule elsewhere, the most productive uplands in this county are the pine timbered lands. Altogether it is adapted to the cultivation of cotton, several kinds of grain, clover, and the tame grasses. It is probably best suited to the growing of corn. Clover and the tame grasses have scarcely been introduced, but, where tried, excellent results have followed. &dquo;Cotton is king,” and some lands are being exhausted by its constant cropping. All the uplands are capable of the growing of all manner of fruits, common to this latitude, but thus far the cultivation of fruit has received but little attention.
In the southeast part of the county, over an area of twenty-five square miles are rich deposits of black oxide of manganese. This ore is used extensively in the manufacture of Bessemer steel rails. In Section 20, Township 17 north, Range 9 west, there is a lead of antimony, and at different points elsewhere, notably in Townships 16 and 17 north. Range 7 west, are strong indications of zinc. There is a good quality of sandstone, building stone, and a great deal of limestone within the county. In Sections 34 and 35, Township 15 north, Range 8 west, is a good deposit of lithographic stone, which is being worked by a New York company.
The bottom lands and adjacent bluffs are covered with white and black oak, red cedar, and black and sweet gum, all of good quality, the white oak being of very superior quality. In the northwest part of the county is a belt of good shortleaved yellow pine, the stumpage of which is carefully estimated at 500,000,000 feet. Much of this timber averages from two to three feet in diameter, and many trees will cut four saw logs each. The rest of the timber is mostly black, post, and white oak. In the northeast portion the growth is mostly post oak and black jack. Ash, cherry, walnut, and other varieties of timber abound in limited quantities.
The county’s resources, so far as developed, are principally agricultural, the horticultural and mineral wealth not having been unfolded. The supply of timber is extensive, as but little, aside from the small quantity used at home, has ever been cut. This will be an important resource whenever shipping facilities are provided. The agricultural products for 1879, as given by the census of 1880, were as follows: Indian corn, 451,904 bushels; oats, 40,593 bushels; wheat, 25,902 bushels; hay, 214 tons; cotton, 4,800 bales; Irish potatoes, 4,500 bushels; sweet potatoes, 11,349 bushels; tobacco, 13,212 pounds. These figures show that the lands of the county are best adapted to the raising of corn, cotton, sweet potatoes and tobacco. The number of head of live-stock, as shown by the same report, were as follows: Horses, 2,109; mules and asses, 1,258; cattle, 9,492; sheep, 8,492; hogs, 18,966. The number listed for taxation, as shown by the abstract of taxable property for 1888, are as follows: Horses, 2,436; mules and asses, 1,655; cattle, 14,857; sheep, 7,035; hogs, 1,619. This indicates by comparison a large increase of the three former and an apparent decrease of the two latter. But reflecting that the number of animals given by the census report include the number of sold and slaughtered during the previous year, while the tax lists include only those on hand when assessed, it is evident that in all, excepting probably sheep, there was a large increase.
In 1880 the county’s real estate was assessed for taxation at 1584,303, the personal property at $411,715, making a total of $996,018. In 1888 the real estate was assessed at $743,994, and the personal property at $759,607, making a total of $1,503,601. This shows that the taxable property of the county, since 1880, has increased in value over 61 per cent. The total amount of taxes charged in 1888, for all purposes, was $20,608.
The population of Izard County at the end of each census decade, since its organization, has been as follows: 1830, 1,266; 1840, 2,240; 1850, 3,212; 1860, 7,215; 1870, 6,806; 1880, 10,857. The colored population in 1870 was 182, and in 1880, 222.