Greene County, Arkansas

Descendendants Made Path For Children To Follow 150 Years Later

From Oct. 2 & 4 , 2002 Edition

A 2002 Century Farm award goes to Johnny Ray and Jannie (Cupp) Distretti who farm and operate more than 2500 acres near Light. Members of their family and their descendants made a path on Greene County soil that they might follow in the farming business almost 150 years later. Their farming operation includes the production of rice, wheat, soybeans and corn.

Janie (Cupp) Distretti's great-great grandfather , James Franklin (Jim) Newberry , born in 1843 , moved to Greene County in 1854. He was captured on June 1861 while serving as a private in the Confederate Army, Company D 5th Regiment Arkansas Infantry. After being transferred to Memphis ,Tenn. then forwarded to Illinois, Delaware and Virginia , he was released and returned home to Greene County. His marriage to Mary A. Morgan resulted in five children .

John Edward Newberry, born Oct. 15th, 1875, the fourth child of Jim and Mary was married in Walcott to Rosa Adelaide "Addie " Biggs on Jan. 13th, 1898. They farmed at Light and had six children.

The fourth child of John and Rosa was Laura May Newberry, born in 1906. She married Vance Cupp, Sr. in 1902 at Light. They had seven children one of whom was "Sonny " Cupp, born in 1926.

Sonny Cupp married Virginia Maxine Stone and they reside in Light , where Sonny Cupp manages Vance Cupp and Sons , Inc. Their children are Vance Cupp III and Jannie Maria Cupp . Jannie Cupp married Johnny Ray Distretti and they live on Highway 141 not far from Light . They have two daughters , Ashley and Casey Distretti.

Retelling the story of his family's farm and business in Light, Sonny Cupp said "When my grandpa, John Newberry, first came here the land was owned by Washington University in St. Louis, who in fact owned the whole Cache River Bottom area, and they were cutting down all the woods to be sold as timber. My grandpa was in the general store business and he purchased 200 acres of land. He was one of the first people to start farming in the Cache River bottom area. While he farmed he also owned a mercantile store, and in 1931 he built a cotton gin."

Cupp said, "After my grandpa died in 1938, my dad the son-in-law of John Newberry ran the cotton gin.  He ran it until 1974, when they stopped growing cotton in the Cache river bottom. My dad owned the gin, but I ran it. I went to college at the University of Arkansas, plus I spent two years in Korea and two years in the Merchant marines during World War II."

In 1974, the same year his father died, Sonny Cupp said rice came on the scene in the Cache river bottom, and it proved to be much more lucrative than cotton. The family's cotton gin was sold and the family began selling commercial fertilizer. Meanwhile they built their first elevator which has a 1400 bushel capacity for soybeans. Today the family business in now buying soybean ,wheat and corn, Sonny Cupp said business has never been better . The original Newberry family farm is farmed today by Jannie Cupp's husband and father -in-law Johnny Ray Distretti and Ray Distretti.

Jannie Cupp Distretti said " I have been blessed to be born into a good family that have worked hard and put down roots here. Jannie Cupp meet Johnny Ray Distretti in the 6th grade when her school in Light burned down and her entire class was sent to finish the year at Walcott.

Johnny Distretti said , "The school that burnt is on the corner of the Newberry Farm that's been there 100 years . I always park where the schools old coal shed used to stand when I go to check the rice well at the the farm.


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