Bearhouse Township, Arkansas

Hosted by Mr. C.L. Jones


By C.L. Jones

I was born August 31, 1936, in Bearhouse Township. The house we lived in was a house with two large rooms which had clay fireplaces in each room. It was on the east side of Bearhouse Creek. There was a long room on the side of the north end of the house which we used as a kitchen. On the south end was what we called the shed room, and it was unheated. There was a large hall which ran between the north and south ends of the house with a porch that reached all the way across the front of the house. The north end of the house was built before the Civil War, and it was constructed from split pine logs put together with wooden pegs. The walls, ceilings, and floors were made of 1 inch by 12 inch rough virgin planks. (There were no knots in any of the lumber.) The shed room had a wooden window that slid sideways to open, and in later years, Buster and I used that room as a bedroom.

In the late 1940's we built a house across Bearhouse Creek on the west side because the land where the old house was located did not belong to us. Also, in the winter and early summer Bearhouse Creek flooded, and we could not cross it to go to school. The house we built across the creek was on land which we owned. After our new house was completed, the old house was sold to the Jones Hunting Club, and they used it as a camp for several years before tearing it down and building the existing club. This club consisted of some of my older brothers and other friends of theirs who were members. The land where the old house was located and where the hunting club is now was the Johnny?? Dye place. At one time we farmed that land as well as the 80 acres we owned across the road.

John Austin Jones and Willie Frances Herring Jones were my parents, and they had twelve children. William was the oldest and died at an early age. Others were James Leroy, Louise, Lowedia, who died at an early age, Lamar, Lawrence, Leon, Lois, Harvey (Buster), Carson (C. L.), Frances (Patsy), and Martha Ann. There are seven of the children still living. I cannot remember when Leroy or Louise lived at home. By the time I was old enough to take note, they were married and gone from home.

A couple of things which I remember at an early age was falling across a crooked handle scythe which one of my brothers had left lying across the garden gate. I almost cut my leg off just above the ankle because Daddy always kept it sharp as a razor. The leaders were cut in my left ankle, but I was not taken to the doctor. All that was done for it was a toe sack (feed sack) was soaked in kerosene and wrapped around it. Another early memory was when Martha was born. I remember the mid-wife and some other folks coming to our house. To my knowledge all of us were born at home.

To raise his family, my mom, dad, and we children farmed and cut timber. After Lamar had joined the Navy, Lawrence the Army, and Leon the Air Force, only Buster and I were left to help Daddy farm and cut timber. We mostly cut pulp wood and cross ties, which Daddy would hewe with a broad ax. When we had a load of cross ties, we would load them on the old 1936 International truck and haul them to Monticello to sell to the railroad. We also cut and hauled logs to the saw mill to build our new house.

At one time Bearhouse Township, at least the area around what was then called Midway, was home to a lot of families and their children attended Midway School. I can remember the Harvey's, Judkins, Tubbs, and some others whose names I have forgotten. I remember Leon as being the oldest one of our family to attend Midway. The last couple of years the school was open, only our family attended. All the other families had sold their land to Crossett Lumber Company and moved away. Minnie Lee Wolfe was our last teacher at Midway. We walked two miles through the woods, and she rode a horse two miles from the other direction. She lived with Mr. Will Hollinger and Mrs. Effie Hollinger while teaching at Midway. Daddy was the school board, and he paid Leon $5.00 a month to go ahead of us and build a fire in the wood heater. We had a split school year. We went three months in the spring and six months in the winter. This was done in order for the kids to help plant the crops in the spring and to help gather them in the fall. Some of the other teachers we had were Hyla Finell Lagrone (She was the granddaughter of Mr. Albert Trapnell Wolfe and Mrs. "Dutch" Ferguson Wolfe and had grown up not too far away), Mamie Moore Andrews, and Mrs Dan Crook, the former Alice Niedrenhouse(not sure of spelling). According to her daughter, Kathryne Crook Burton, she also taught at Coleman Schools. Each time she boarded with the families in the area. According to Leon Tubbs, Miss Clara Willis taught there, too.

Some of the most vivid memories I have of Midway School is Minnie Lee's falling off the bridge which was just north of the school. She was throwing sweet gum balls off the bridge during recess, and we were in the water catching them as they floated out the other side. She stepped on a rotten plank and fell about fifteen feet into the water. Another memory is Bobby Lee's coming to school barefooted when the ground was frozen. At that time he was living with the Harvey's. His mother was Claudia McKiever Lee, and the McKiever's and Harvey's were related. Another memory is when Mr. R. D. (Carroll) Jones, Sr. was logging near the school. His men lost a pair of logging tongs (used for skidding logs), and we found them. We took them home and Daddy contacted Carroll. He came and picked them up and gave us a 25 cent reward. We thought we were rich.

When Minnie Lee was our teacher at Midway, we would occasionally have visitors stop by. One of them was Mr. Phil Wolfe from Little Rock. He was Minnie Lee's uncle and would be bird hunting near the school. Another visitor was Ernest Tubbs from McGehee. His wife was Lottie Harvey and both had been raised at Midway near the school. He would be down visiting relatives and would stop by the school. At one time there was a Post Office and store near the school, which were run by a Mr. John Wesley Haisty. I have been told the school was once used as a church, but I do not remember the store or the church.

We carried our lunch to school in a gallon syrup bucket. Most of the time our lunch consisted of a fried egg in a biscuit or sugar and butter in a biscuit. When we were lucky we might get a fried pie (we called them tarts). When Midway got to the point that only our family attended, Drew Central made a contract with Daddy to furnish us transportation to Prairie Grove School. This contract was for as long as any of us were in school. They paid Daddy every month for as long as he had a vehicle to transport us to Prairie Grove. When the old 1936 International quit running, Drew Central bought us a 1929 Model A Ford. Later, when Prairie Grove was closed about 1947 or '48, they gave us a 1948 Chevrolet station wagon which Buster drove. After Buster graduated in 1953, they gave us a small panel bus, which I drove and picked up some other kids along the way to Drew Central. When Daddy drove us to Prairie Grove, he usually stopped at Mr. Dan Wolfe's and visited with him. We walked the rest of the way which was about two miles on to the school and then walked back to Mr. Dan's in the afternoon. We had plenty of company as we walked with the McClure and Thurman kids, Young Wolfe's two girls, Patty Jean and Lynda Jo, and the Allen Murphy kids. We lived seven miles from Mr. Bud Thurman, Mr. Big Boy McClure, and Frank Wolfe's mail boxes. This is where we would park and catch the bus to go to Drew Central after Prairie Grove's School was closed. (By the way, Midway and the Prairie Schools were just through the eighth grades.) Our mail box was about a mile further north of there. Mr. Bud, the McClures and Frank Wolfe's mail boxes were on the Hamburg Route, and ours was on the Monticello Route. I do not know why Daddy chose to receive our mail from Monticello unless it had come from Monticello before Midway's Post Office had been shut down a lot earlier. Mr. Marion?? Murphy was our carrier, and Mr. Carl Locke was the Hamburg carrier. We did not pick up our mail very often since the box was eight miles from our house. When I was going into the 10th grade, Leon was stationed in Fort Worth, Texas, and was going to send me the money to come to Fort Worth and work that summer. I knew when the money was supposed to come and was going to hitchhike to the mailbox. I walked the 8 miles to the mailbox (got my $15.00) and walked back home. Then I walked back out the next day carrying two suitcases and did not see a soul until I got back to the Prairie and caught a ride to Monticello. Bearhouse Creek and the surrounding area was and is WAY back in the woods. It is about half way between the Cut-Off Creek Wild Life Management area and Long Prairie.

Buster and I played basketball and always caught a ride with Mr. Charlie Allen (Bud Dennis) Thurman. He had a tarp on the back of the maroon Chevrolet truck which his oldest son, Cecil Thurman, still owns. When he brought us back to the Prairie, he would let us out at his road or his mailbox. If we did not have a vehicle there, we would either spend the night with the McClures or walk home that night. Most of the time, we would spend the night and walk home the next morning. Mr. Bud always had a load by the time he took his youngest three children: Billy Joe, Quida, and Mary, as well as Daniel and Fain McClure, Buster and me. Mr. Bud never missed a game when Billy Joe played at Drew Central or at Arkansas A & M. According to Beth Thurman, Mr. James Trim tried to get him to go to some ball games later, and Mr Bud would never go. When asked why, he told Mr. Trim, "Ballgames are sort of like fox races. They are not as much fun if you don't have a dog in the race."

We lived so far back in the woods that during the summer months, we would not see anyone but our family for weeks at the time. We always looked forward to the hunting season because Leroy, who lived in McGehee, would come out to hunt deer or squirrels.

When we went to Monticello to sell our cross ties, we would always eat our lunch at Merton Binn's store. Daddy would buy a half stick of bologna, a box of crackers and each one a soft drink. Most of the time we also had a moon pie. We enjoyed visiting Dot Hollinger, Mr. Will's boy, who worked in the store. I remember going to his wifes funeral at Prairie Grove when I was a little boy. After Miss Effie Wolfe Hollinger had passed away, Mr. Will would walk through the woods to our house to visit. This was at least three or four miles. I never saw him without his knee-high rubber boots. Mr. Will was one of the funniest men I have ever known. He could tell a story , and I would nearly spit my sides laughing. He was a good friend to my folks. One story I particularly remember his telling was about his buying a Browning automatic shotgun. In those days no one in that area had electricty, but one night some years after his wifes death, it was hot and he said he could not sleep. No one had screens in those days, and we slept with all the windows and doors open. He was sitting out in his porch swing about 2 am trying to get cool when he heard a panther scream very close to his house. He always said, "Ah," before beginning a sentence. He concluded by saying, "Ah, I got cold real quick, went in the house, loaded up my Browning automatic, and closed all the windows and doors." Any of you that knew him should appreciate this story.

Mr. Wyse Towels, who lived down on Big Bearhouse Creek was a frequent visitor to our house. He always rode his horse whose name was Puddin. Daddy and he would sit and talk until about midnight, and he would get on Puddin and tell her, "Let's go home." The night would be pitch black, and he would not have a light, but he always had his hog dogs with him. These dogs saved his life once when one of his big hogs knocked his horse down. The dogs kept them bayed and off him. He had hogs and cows all over the Bearhouse Creek area, and some of them were very mean. I can remember Buster and I climbing trees several times to get away from them.

After I graduated in 1955, the school purchased a pick up truck for Martha and Patsy to drive to catch the school bus. Patsy graduated in 1956 and Martha the following year. After Martha graduated, Daddy's health was so bad that they moved to McGehee to be near some of their children. Except for Wyse Towles and his brother Scrouge and his sister-in-law, Della, they were the last residents to live on Bearhouse Creek in or around Midway. Leroy bought the 80 acres of land, and someone bought the house and moved it. According to Beth Thurman, Alfred and Bernice Lagrone bought it, and it is still being used as a deer camp.

Looking back, we had a pretty rough life at Bearhouse. We had no electricity, which meant using kerosene lamps, no running water, no refrigeration, and no private bedrooms. Louise gave us an old wooden ice box, but we had to drive to the Prairie and buy ice from the ice man. We wrapped it in a tarp in order to keep it from melting before we got home with it.

We only bought the necessities, such as flour, meal, salt and pepper, and the rest of our food we raised in the garden. Mamma canned all kinds of vegetables, and we killed our own hogs. We salted the pork down in a meat box which we kept in the barn. When it got cold enough, we would butcher the hogs, and the first night we had hog brains and scrambled eggs. The next night we ate the liver and lites. We ground sausage, fried it, and then put it in gallon jars of lard to preserve it. We also raised chickens which provided us with eggs. When an old hen quit laying, she usually wound up as Sunday dinner. Most of the necessities we bought at Lewis's store at Ladelle, or we would drive out to the Prairie to meet Mr. Hogue's rolling grocery store. He had a large truck and came down the Prairie every week. If he did not have what we needed, he would bring it the next week.

The first radio we ever saw was sold to us by Mr. Victor Borchardt from Monticello. It operated on a large battery and a wire was run from the radio to the clothes line to serve as a antenna. Lamar, Lawrence, and Leon were in the field working when they heard the radio and ran all the way to the house. We only listened to certain programs. In the evening we listened to the Lone Ranger, Tom Mix and Red Ryder. Mamma always listened to Stella Dallas. We all listened to the Grand Ole Opry on Saturday night.

Growing up under the circumstances that we did and being from such a large family hopefully made us more appreciative of what we have now. There are no residents living in Bearhouse Township near the Midway area, and there has not been since the early 1960's. Soon after Momma and Daddy moved away, Mr. Wyse had to go to a home in Crossett, and Mr. Scrouge and Mrs. Della bought a house in Hamburg, which left the Midway-Bearhouse Creek area home to coyotes, wolves, bear, rattlesnakes, turkey, deer, and the members of the Jones and Midway Hunting Clubs during the fall and winter hunting seasons. If a person is really lucky, he might run into an occasional pulp wood or log hauler going to and from the woods to the paper and pulp mills. Otherwise, he faces a lot of solitude in the desolate area that used to be Midway-half way between Mist and Monticello, Arkansas.

Copyright 2008 by C.L. Jones


By Victor Winborn

I recently showed the articles that C.L. Jones and Beth Thurman wrote about Bearhouse to my kids (all reared in the city). I told them that this was where I did my cow and hog hunting as a kid. This struck them as a strange thing to do and they demanded an explanation.

After Crossett Company and, later, Georgia Pacific bought out most of the farmers in the county, the ones that were left were allowed to free-range their cattle and hogs on company land. This enabled the remaining farmers (ranchers in the case of my uncle, James Daniel) to run their businesses with a minimum of personally owned land. It benefited the paper mill owners (Crossett and Georgia Pacific) in at least two ways: The farmers who had livestock spread all over the county had to drive all the back roads and ride their horses over all the forest trails to take care of the livestock. And it gave the companies a lot of free labor because these farmers would immediately report any problems with the timber or roads they ran across. The other benefit to the companies was that the cattle would eat the grass in the fire breaks and clearings. Fire breaks are trails, 15 feet, or so, wide, dividing the forest into sections. Their purpose is to keep a forest fire from spreading by depriving it of combustible material at these occasional trails through the trees. But, if the grass in the breaks grows tall and dries out it defeats the purpose of the fire break. Also, when sections of forest are cut for pulpwood, they leave large clearings. These clearings were replanted with new trees, but, while the trees were young, the clearings were open for the growth of grass and brush. Cattle tend to keep the height of grass and brush down. (They eat it). This allowed the new trees to grow without competition from high grass. Most importantly, though, the constant eating of tall grass in the clearings and fire breaks kept the danger of forest fires down.

We did as much of our cow hunting as possible by car or truck. We would take food or hay to the places where we knew groups of cattle or hogs were. My uncle, James, was a master at calling cattle, and they would come at a gallop to be fed - if they could hear him. Sometimes, they would wander off to a new area, and we would have to take the horses and dogs out to find them. Most of this was done during the winter and early spring when there was little food to forage, and they were getting weak, but it was also done in the spring during heavy calving times. In addition, when it was time to worm the cattle, dip them for ticks or dehorn them, we would drive them back to the ranch.

The pigs that Wyse Towels and we raised were the infamous Arkansas razorbacks. They were really mean. I've seen them gut dogs with one slash of their tusks - not a pretty sound or sight. We could tell our stock from those of our neighbors by their ear markings. When the calves and piglets were born, we would cut their ears into the shapes that we had registered at the county seat (similar to branding). This was one of the reasons for cow and hog hunting. During the spring we would have to go out and find all the new animals and mark them.

Times have certainly changed - at least for me. Thursday I dropped my cell phone at Logan Airport in Boston. The airline found it, found the speed dial entry marked "Home�, and called to let me know they had it. Then they flew it to Norfolk International Airport, and I drove out to pick it up. As I was driving back home, I couldn't help but think, "What a change in lifestyle!"

Copyright 2009 by Victor Winborn

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