Greene County Arkansas

Paragould, Arkansas

Centennial Edition Section 4

Monday, August 29, 1983, Paragould Daily Press                                                                                                                        Section 4, Centennial Edition  -9

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"Don't just remember -- write it down."

   That admonition appears in one of the 28 issues
of the Greene County Historical Quarterly, a 10-year collective labor of love that helped preserve numerous slices of the county's history.
   Those 28 issues of the Quarterly, dated from Winter 1964 to Autumn 1974, contain almost 700 pages of written history, a galaxy of infor-mation -- stories, community histories, old photo-graphs, biographies, family trees, cemetery listings and military rosters.
   Much of the information would have been lost if it hadn't been written down while the storytellers were still around, for many of the oldtimers who were eyewitnesses to the county's development or who vividly remembered the stories their parents told of early settlement have died.
   Fortunately, the Greene County Historical Society, which published the quarterly for 10 years despite the financial and organizational odds, was able to preserve at least a part of the county's history.
   The historical association was organized in June 1964, with assistance from interested persons from Arkansas State University and the Craig-head County Historical Society. Its first quarterly was published that winter.
   The group was able to crank out four issues a year for six years. But in the seventh year, finan-cial and other problems forced the society to produce only two issues instead of four. In each its last two years, 1973 and '74, the society produced single combined issues, the "combined
issue including winter, spring, summer, autumn 1974" being its last until an attempt this centennial year to revive the quarterly and the society. (See related story below.)
   The foreword at the front of each of the issues charts the lack of funds and participation that ultimately brought about the suspension of the quarterly.

   

   But in the beginning, the group started with high
 aspirations. President Raymond Frey's message in the first issue mentions plans for placing historical markers at significant sites and taping oral history interviews with older citizens.
   "The aim of the Society is to find and preserve the history of Greene County. Much of the early history has already disappeared, as old landmarks are erased and the elder citizens leave the passing scene," Frey wrote in the foreword which also solicited memberships and written contributions.
   In the second issue he praised "the enthusiastic response" the first had generated, especially the "constant flow of letters from many former Greene County citizens from California to the East Coast." In fact, Frey said recently, former residents responded much more enthusiastically
than those still living in the county, an irony he alluded to in that second foreword. "While the membership now numbers over 100 and almost three-fourths of the first edition of the Quarterly have been sold, there are still many Greene County citizens whose families have deep historic ties with this region, and should be interested
in helping support the work of the Society," he wrote.
   He also mentioned other problems that would nag the society throughout its existence. "This issue is necessarily limited in size because of the presently small membership and lack of funds." In fact, the first issue had been financed solely throu- gh Mrs. W. L. Skaggs' purchase of a $100 life membership. She was the only one to buy such a patron membership during the existence of the organization.
   The society met monthly at the libary and later at the then-new community center. Papers were presented and matters discussed but, especially in later years, few people showed up.
   Reliance on a handful of key people posed problems for the fledgling group.

   

Apologies for late issues usually cited the sick-ness of some officer or editor. Money problems resurfaced from issue to issue.
   "We hope the members understand the com-plications of publishing a magazine on the pro-verbial shoe-string,"one message stated. "The fact that the Quarterly eventually finds its way into print is the result of the dedication of a handful of members who have worked unceasingly in pro-moting memberships, collecting dues and donations, selling copies of the Quarterly in order
to pay the printing bill and other small obligations the operation of the Society entails."
   And, it continued, "It is something of a task to find historical material of sufficient interest for each issue.Many promise to get historical data to us, but materializaion is slow. The Editor again solicits your family's histories and memories of historic interest, so that your magazine may be filled with items that should be preserved."
   In almost every issue there was an apology for lateness caused by finances, pleas for help with projects such as mapping cemeteries, saving the Crowley home or planning historical markers and request for members to, please, attend the meetings.
   In late 1971, the society reported a record membership of 800,but the signs of trouble were still there.
   One of the last issues of the Quarterly contains what amounts to its own obituary.
   After summarizing the history of the organization the writer added, "The long illness of several of the officers and the subsequent deaths of the most dependable of the older members, disrupted the continuity of the meetings. Attendance fell so low the meetings were of a necessity discontinued. With the removal of Dr. C. W. Starnes, the president, to Jonesboro, the work of the society has virtually been halted."
   The next issue was the last.

 

New historical quarterly rekindles flame of defunct local organization

 

   There are lessons to be learned from the rise and fall of the Greene County Historical Society.
  "Everyone wanted the quarterlies and the fringe
benefits but no one wanted to do the work," explained Wanda Johnson, secretary of the society when it disbanded. She was one of three former officers who spearheaded the Centennial Edition of the quarterly that was published in  May.
   Myrl Mueller, who edited all the previous quarterlies as well as the latest one, and Frances Albright, vice president of the group when it dis-banded were the other two. All three were among the few willing to do the work, now and back during the society's active days.
   The trio has planned two other special issues for this year, if sales of the first one can generate enough money to pay the printing bills. And there are hopes that this year's centennial-sesquicen-tennial fever will spur re-organization of the defunct group.
 

 

 

    But, with their eyes wide open to both the problems the old group had and those a new group will likely

  encounter, Johnson and Albright, who live next-door to each other, are determined that this golden opportunity for revival will not be lost.
    Johnson is somewhat optimistic. "I think people have  become more interested in history during the last five years," she said, adding that the centennial has spurred even more interest.
   Since so many history-oriented people are tied up with other centennial projects, revival plans have been postponed temporarily. "But we plan to reactivate this fall after the celebration," Albright said. Already lists have been circulated to obtain mailing addresses of potential members.
   Raymond Frey, the old group's first president, is also optimistic. "I think it could be done now because more people are interested. I think it would go now."
   But Frey, like the historian he is, warns that the new group will have to learn from the lessons of the past.

Doorways to the Past

 

Transcribed by: PR Massey

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