Greene County, Arkansas
Hunting and Fishing Clubs
Draninage ditches, levies, cotton and bean fields have supplanted the drainage environment of Northeast Arkansas and Southeast Missouri, which bountifully supplied the fisherman and hunter with gme 80 yrs ago. Present residents are scarcely aware that this was once a sportsman's paradise. Wealthy men from St. Louis maintained elaborate lodges on the St. Francis River and local sportsmen acted as guides, leading the visitors to places where a hundred bass could be caught in a day or a hundred ducks could be shot. Or the visitor could choose a wild turkey shoot, a fox or bear hunt.
A pamphlet, "The Sportsman's Paradise on the Buffalo Island Route, Arkansas," was prepared by W.C. Hasty and F.S. Yantis of Paragould, Arkansas, in 1890, to attract investors and farming residents. Mr Hasty and Mr Yantis had established a short line railroad to Bertig, a town on the St. Francis. This railroad was soon called the Paragould Southeastern and ran to Blytheville. In 1890 Bertig was a good sized town with three manufacturing concerns, the Smeltzly Lumber Company, the Renrod and Wood Sawmill, and the American Hardwood Lumber Company, shipping out mant millions of feet of lumber annually.
The pamphlet described the hunting lodges of Bertig and vicinity as being splendid club houses partly extending into the river, with broad verandas from which one could step into a boat. The Buffalo Island Hunting and Fishing Club was managed by S. Virgilio who catered to the wants of his guests with all the skill of a connoisseur. The rates to the members of $1.00 per day included board and lodging and the use of boats. Non-members were charged $2.00 per day. The membership fee was $2.50 per year. The president of the club was C.S. Wheeler, Equitable Building, St. Louis, Missouri. The club house was situated about one-half mile from Seneca Slough, where duck shooting was good from September until March. Or Bagwell's Lake, about a mile and a half away, could be reached by hand car, was shallow, and celebrated for its fly and minnow fishing. The average day's catch was from 40 to 125 bass.
For fear the reader would not believe the fishing statistics, Mr. Hasty and Mr. Yantis listed credible witnesses who would corroborate their statements. Those named included railroad executives, doctors, bankers, and an architect, all of St. Louis.
The Knobel Hunting and Fishing club also had a fine house at Bertig, owned mostly by St. Louis Sportsmen. Their group also erected a commodious club house on Big Lake, fifteen miles south of Hornersville, Missouri. It was claimed that when you ran out in Little River in the dense canes, the trout almost jumped into your boat. East of Little River in the dense cane-brakes of the bottom country, turkey and bear were hunted. Quail and duck shooting were so common that local sportsmen had no interest in them, but they considered bear hunting a challenge. The writers of the pamphlet recommended to sporting men of the cities who were seeking a really sensational experience that they go on a bear hunt in the bottoms east of Hornersville. Wild turkey were so numerous that you could almost kill them with a stik and you didn't have to go far to bring in a buck. The sportsman was advised to take the PSE, leaving Paragould early in the morning, reaching Hornersville in time for dinner. At Hornersville. a boat and guide could be secured and the trip to Big Lake could be made on Little River. During game season there were millions and millions of ducks and the sportsman could expect greater results for his time than on almost any other body of water in the United States.
After eighty years of progress, the millions of ducks have dwindled to a scattered few and the elegant sportsman's clubs have been replaced by an invention of the technological age, the DUCK BLIND.
by: Wanda Moore
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