The History of Richmond

(Little River County, Arkansas)

by Mrs. Moffett Carolan Gardner

(Grandaughter of John Cain Head, born 1868)


This story was sent to me, Mary Bish, (great niece of John Cain Head) in 1973 by

Gussye Gardner, born 1894, daughter of Moffett Carolan Gardner.

Questions?????? Send e-mail to Mary .

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I have often wondered if preserving annals of the past is due to natural

instinct, or is it from a beautiful sentiment that we desire to preserve the memories of

our old "home town"? Perhaps it is from marks of culture: certainly, it is evidence of

everlasting love. The common man of whom Abraham Lincoln said, "God must

have loved because he made so many of them," too often has been forgotten, although

his simple life and deeds have added greatly to building the firm foundation upon

which our nation is founded. Very few of the children of "Old Richmond" live on

this side of Eternity, so it is now while there is yet time, I should tell you of scenes and

incidents of my "home town, "Old Richmond." A story that is of a town whose origin

is slightly veiled, and more surmised.


Richmond rose to prominence as a social and cultural center over this part of

the state and held this "place in the stars," for many years. Eventually, the railroad

came into the county, and in a short time many of her valued citizens moved to a

nearby town that became the county seat.


No one can answer this question: Why did those pioneers decide to leave their

cities and seats of culture in South Carolina, Virginia, Alabama and Georgia?

Doubtless, it was the lure of the lands of nearby Red River, the black waxy and black

sandy land on Walnut Bayou and the dark sandy land of the hills, all of which

produced from one bale to one a half bales of cotton per acre or fifty to seventy-five

bushels of corn. No better land for farming could be found. The great forests of pine,

gum, oak, cottonwood, hickory, etc., may have been another lure to our pioneer



Picture to yourself, if you will, the great ox wagon caravans as they threaded

their way over the Alleghenies with here and there a horseman, or the flatboats at

Hood's Landing, piled high with household goods, with many busy men unloading

the ox wagons and boats, and reloading the ox wagons to travel the almost unbroken

forests to Richmond. In it's forests, game was plentiful. Buffalo, deer, bear, wolves

and panthers roamed and it was an easy matter for the men to carry home, for dinner,

wild turkey, ducks, geese, squirrels and quail.


The spirit of enterprise, their progressive nature, and their indomitable will led

these pioneers to develop the natural resources of this, their chosen home. There was

much that was exciting and picturesque in the early life of Richmond. Visions of a

future with wealth and easy life floated before the eyes of these early farmers and their

families as they toiled in the sun, rain and snow. Often, in the middle of the coldest

nights, they were awakened by panthers and wolves, and occasionally, a bear, making

a raid in the pig pen or the chicken house. It was not uncommon for a bear to track a

hunter home by the blood of his kill.


The first settlers were hardy men. Andrew Hemphill, the grandfather of the

late A.T. Hemphill of Ashdown, was the first to settle near Richmond. He was soon

followed by Bouldin Phillips, Dr. Bellah and his brother, Tom, and B.F. Hawkins. Dr.

Bellah owned much land in this vicinity, including the town site of Richmond. This

was a place almost devoid of roads, save a few trails. The Fort Townsend Road was cut

through this county in 1832, a mile or so west of Richmond.


These settlers were followed by the Bizzells, Rowlands, Bowmans, Simmons,

Carolans, McCrarys, Davises, Taylors and Cooks. The last five were from Lowdnes

County, Alabama, or nearby. Very few of the old houses are now standing. The

Brothers home, the oldest home, lately occupied by Roy Willsen and family, was built

for a drug store. W. P. Walker and family occupy another of the old homes, torn

down and replaces that of Dr. Dunn. The Bizzell place is owned by Willard Locke.

The Rhodes house, 1 1/2 miles east of Richmond, owned and occupied by Mrs. Ema

Bell McGraw, was begun before the Civil War and completed during that period by

Mr. Rhodes. The Mims place, now owned by Mrs. S.C. Reynolds, was the birth place of

Dr. Edwin Mims, author, lecturer and teacher. The N.C. McCrary home in Richmond

was built in 1879 and 1880 by the great uncle of this writer, James Monroe Head. The

log barn that stands nearby was the house when my uncle purchased this place in 1868,

and was occupied by him, his mother, Sarah Cain Head; and brother, Calhoun Head

until present building was erected.


Mr. McHaney built the chimneys for most of the houses in the community.

Mr. McHaney hauled limestone rock from Rocky Comfort with ox teams. He built

and burned his own brick.


Richmond was first settled in 1853, and the first schoolhouse was a one-room

log house built in 1854, west of the present building. It was situated in what is now the

Radford field in front of Mr. Roy Stevens(?). The building was south of the Stevens

home. The writer recalls playing around this schoolhouse when it was a tumbled

down rotten building. Mr. Deloney, grandfather of Mrs. T. E. McGruder; Dr. Andrew

Hunter, who later became prominent in the Methodist Church; and Mr. Boyd, were

among the early teachers in this log house. The late W.M. Sykes was a student in

these schools. An Act of the General Assembly, passed before the Civil War, made it

possible for a two-room frame building to be erected near the present building. The

two rooms could be turned into one long room, with fireplaces at each end, and a

double door opening in the center, facing the north. In the early days, there was not a

well to furnish water, so many of the boys and girls would go down to the Branch, lie

flat on their stomachs, and drink deeply of the water where cows, mules, hogs, etc.,

waded and drank. Many of the parents had their children take water from home in

bottles. The seats in the first school were made of logs split in half with no backs, and

legs made of pegs. The Blue Back spelling book was the only book studied, and no

reading was permitted until we got to the pictures. The one syllable words and the A

B C's were recited in sing-song fashion. After learning to read everything in our

speller, we were made happy by being advanced to the first reader. This method was

pursued in my early school days in the mid seventies. An Act to Incorporate the

Trustees of Richmond Male and Female Academy was approved January 21, 1861. The

trustees at that time were: John D. Bellah, L. J. Rhodes, N. Wilder, Wiley Bishop and

William T. Simmons. This Act was amended March 25, 1891, a copy of which is in my

possession. Hindman C. Head, the father of Mrs. Farris Morgan of Ashdown,

sponsored it's passage. Section 2 reads: Be it further enacted S.S.P. Mills, M. A. Locke,

J. T. Butler, J.S. Walker and J.M. Head be and are humbly appointed trustees to said

Academy. A majority of whom shall be a governing committee for transaction of



School terms in that early day were usually of two or three months duration

and taught in the summer. No grade was taught higher than the eighth until T.T.C.

Anderson came here in January, 1882. The schools were usually taught by lawyers,

farmers and preachers and a few others, when their time was not otherwise occupied.

Richmond was the only school in the county owning district property.


Around 1878-79, Tom Sharp came to the county from Alabama. He was a nice

looking, well educated man. The school opened and in a short time, several boys

from old Rocky Comfort were sent to take advantage of our school. Among the

number were John and Henry Hawkins, and Sam Schoolfield. I cannot remember all,

but there were about six. Mr. Sharp and the boys lived in the home of my grandfather,

Captain John Cain Head. A blackboard was placed in one room and our Mr. Sharp saw

to it that the boys' lessons were well prepared for the following day. Some of the rules

he made for punishing the pupils were so strict that the directors disapproved. One

rule was to make any girl seen chewing gum to chew tobacco. Another, he locked the

door and never allowed any pupil to enter if they were late. The Board consisted of

A.J. Mims, S. L. Poindexter and J. W. Carolan. The school was progressing fine but

alas! Richmond awoke one fine morning to find their teacher had departed between

suns for other parts. DeKalb Joyner was one of the early teachers in the building

erected in the sixties. Judge Littleton J. Joyner taught for 6 years between 1861 and 1867.

The school became so crowded that Miss Lou Fields, from Washington, was hired to



In the early years, the schoolhouses were also used by the churches. Now the

tables were turned. Judge Joyner taught the boys in the schoolhouse and Miss Fields,

the girls in the church. Mrs. A.J. Mims, then Cornelia Williamson, was one of a

number of girls who participated in making a confederate flag. Col. W. D. Cook made

a speech of acceptance when the flag was raised. Judge Lewis Davis, father of ex

Governor and Senator Jeff Davis, had charge of the school one year during the Civil

War, as did Mr. Stepleton, an Episcopal minister.


When T.T.C. Anderson was employed in January, 1882, to take charge of the

Richmond school, there were only two teachers in the county holding first grade

licenses. Usually pleasing the parents and students took precedence over school work.

It seemed to be an unknown factor in the earliest schools of the county that only

competent, conscientious teachers, intelligent men on the school board, and

cooperative, interested patrons and citizens can build schools. Indeed, the situation

was so bad that in the late seventies, one family employed a governess. Her work

proved so superior that several families removed their children from the public

school and arranged for the governess to teach them also.


There were no county institutes when Mr. Anderson came here in 1882. He

fostered an organization of this kind and its first meeting was held in Richmond in

the middle of the eighties. Five state Superintendents visited in different years: Mr.

Jordan, Mr. Henderson, Mr. Doyne, Mr. Cook and Mr. Bond. Their visits added much

to the efficiency of these institutes which were not then social meetings of teachers for

a good time at the expense of various districts. The younger teachers received much

benefit by discussing schedules of work, assigning lessons, methods of teaching

different subjects, disciplining, etc. These institutes were held at various places over

the county after being well organized at Richmond. Directors and parents were urged

to attend and learn what it was all about. No doubt, many children had their minds

thoroughly confused and injured by untrained teachers learning to teach in our

schools. W. F. Joyner, who taught in 1875 was the first county examiner in Little River

County. The earlier law gave the examiner very little power over the management of

the schools. This was held by the directors, but the examiner assisted the Directors

greatly in solving the school problems. In 1919, the County Examiner was changed to

Co-superintendent. The first student to leave the county for more advancement was

Hindman C. Head, who entered the University of Arkansas in 1878. The total number

of school pupils in the county as shown by the records of 1882, when Mr. Anderson

came here, was about 2300. About 45% white and 55% colored. It has been said that

T.T.C. Anderson put the schools of Little River County on their feet and that

Richmond became the mother of Little River County schools. He had a wonderful

attitude for work with children and youth. His students never completed a study

until the book had been thoroughly reviewed and comprehended. He did not give

examinations in those earlier years, much to our delight. He believed that daily grades

determined the future for a pupil's progress better than examinations. When the

closing day of school came, the last lesson in the book was signed and right there was

where we began next term. But - it did matter a great deal, if we failed to bring up our

lesson - United States History. A pupil would make some inquiry about the Civil

War; it would be but a short time when Mr. Anderson would begin telling of his

experiences and disputing the Historian, who of course was a northern writer. Never

was a pupil allowed to cover ground at the expense of thoroughness. He taught in

Richmond four different times. Seventeen years in all. He played a great part in

upbuilding of education in Southwest Arkansas, and his memory is still revered in

the hearts of his many pupils.


A few years after Richmond was no longer the county seat, the old schoolhouse was

declared unsafe and the school was moved into the Old Court House, where it

remained until 1929 or 30. The new brick schoolhouse was then ready for use and

pupils and teachers were happy to occupy it.


Ulys Methvin came as Superintendent of the school in 1927(?) and the next

spring Richmond and Arden consolidated their schools, maintaining a 12-grade

school at Richmond for two years. Later, the school was dropped to 10 grades - the

11th and 12th grades going to Ashdown, giving Richmond an eight grade school.

Thus has passed away one of Richmond's best loved institutions, which in days past

brought many boys and girls into our village.


Richmond was settled in 1853 and in 1854, Dr. Bellah deeded the present

Methodist Church a lot for a church to be used by all Evangelical denominations.

Before the log schoolhouse was erected, the Methodists worshipped in one of the

homes. Later, Methodists and Presbyterians held services in the log schoolhouse. The

Methodists organized a church in 1854 in the old log schoolhouse and J. Turrentine

was the first pastor assigned to Richmond Mission. The Presbyterians Church was

organized in 1859 or 1860 with Judge Matt P. McCrary and Thomas S. Davis, elders. In

1859 the Baptists organized and erected a small church building two miles east of

Richmond near the old cemetery. Judge Scott and Bouldin Phillips were the deacons

of their church. The latter was the maternal grandfather of Jeff Davis, ex Governor

and Senator of Arkansas. Judge Lewis and W. Davis were the fathers of the above

preachers in this church. Thus, the churches functioned until 1869 or 70 when many

of the members moved away and several died. Then it was discontinued. The

building was given to the Negro Baptists who used it for church purposes for many



A list of the subscriptions to the church building on the lot donated by Dr.

Bellah is still kept. Among the names on the list are M.P. McCrary, $100.00; Andrew

Hemphill, $100.00; T. E. Patterson, $50.00; S. S. Hollowell, $50.00; W. Britt, $100.00;

A. S. Davis, $100.00, etc. It was decided that the church must be two stories, the second

floor for the Masonic Hall. Another provision was made that the church could be

used by the schools, if necessary. It was built in 1860 before the church was ready for

use and then it was only a shell of a building, unceiled and without any heating

facilities. The War coming on called away all able bodied men. The people left had to

struggle very hard to live. The Old Church was completed after the War. The

Methodists and Presbyterians, with an occasional Baptist or Episcopal minister filling

the pulpit, functioned until 1882, when the Presbyterians erected a church of their

own. Never inharmonious, these two denominations were true friends and co-

workers. Their Presbyterian building was removed to Arden some years ago when the

congregation at Richmond disbanded. This church continues in use by the

Presbyterians at Arden and contains the original pulpit, pews and chandeliers. The

deed, originally given to the Methodists by Dr. Bellah, was later changed to the

Methodist Episcopal Church South.


During the War, one bitter cold Sunday morning (still no heating facilities in

the church) the last appointment of Rev. Sam G. Colburn(?) before conference, he

stood in the pulpit clad in a light summer suit, while his congregation were wrapped

in blankets, coats and shawls endeavoring to keep warm. The next morning, Mrs.

Lovett, a Presbyterian, and several other ladies got together, collected funds and

purchased sufficient red flannel to make two suits of underwear and jeans for a suit of

clothes for Brother Colburn. These were made in one day. Another lady gave him

two pairs of knitted socks, so this preacher was warmly fitted out for his trip to



The Methodists continued to use the old church building until in the late

1890's or early in 1900, when it was declared dangerous and under the pastorage of J.

W. White, a new one-story church was erected on the exact spot where the old one

stood. In 1927 or 28, Richmond decided she needed a more modern place of worship.

Under the pastorage of Rev. L. C. Gatlin, the old building was torn away and a new,

modern church was erected on the identical same church spot as the first church in

1860 occupied.


Rev. L. B. Hawly(?), who was pastor in 1876, put Methodist Church squarely on

its feet in Richmond. His circuit included the entire county the first year here. The

second year, it became Richmond and Rocky Comfort with Jake Whiteside in charge of

the remainder of the county. Bro. Hawly aroused an interest in congregational singing

and interrested the young people in work for the youth and singing classes. It was

during his pastorage that Richmond first entertained the District Conference.


Another red letter event occurred in 1875. The Woman's Missionary Society

was organized. Rev. C. O. Steel assisted in this. Mrs. A. J. Mims was elected president,

Mrs. J. M. Dunn, secretary and Mrs. J. W. Carolan, treasurer. Mrs. J. R. Harvey(?), the

wife of the preacher assisted in this organization, the second in Arkansas. Dr. Edwin

Mims, then four years old, was made a life member by the payment of one dollar by

his mother. The Juvenile(?) Miss Society was organized in 1878. Rev. J. C. Rhodes did

a monumental work in Richmond while pastor here in 1881 and 1882. He drove that

demon whiskey, which was doing so much to undermine our government ruling

town, out under the three-mile law. He bought a column in the Little River Pilot,

published here by M. L. Yateman, who was also strong against whiskey. Brother

Rhodes set the type, arranged the form for printing the column, furnished all the copy

and it was red-hot against alcohol, and he assumed full responsibility, financially,

legally, personally and otherwise. The whiskey men threatened to run him out of

town, mob him and other bad things. He won his fight andonly one time since has a

saloon been opened in Richmond. A man was killed and the saloon closed.


Fortunately, this county saw none of the actual fighting during the Civil War.

The majority of our young men of military age enlisted and suffered much privation

and endured many hardships. My father, with a number of others from Richmond,

served the entire war. However, part of the time was spent in prison where they were

given only corn, field peas and molasses for food.


General Price used Richmond as his headquarters one winter. General Gane(?)

camped one winter in Red River Bend. Because of this, for many years this was

known as Ganee's Camp. General Shelby, on his retreat from the Missouri raid, had

his winter quarters in the Baptist church near Richmond Cemetery. General Shelby's

body servant, a Negro named Henry Walls, came here with General Shelby and

remained after the war. He died 18 or 20 years ago near Wilton. He enjoyed relating

his foraging expeditions and seemed to feel it his duty to feed General Shelby well. He

would always make a note of any prosperous place as they passed while riding with

General Shelby. Many nights Henry spent in foraging. His favorite story was of

finding a family taking their evening meal, he peered through the window and spied

a large boiled ham on the table. He dashed into the room yelling, grabbed the ham

and was well on his way to camp when the surprised family realized what had

happened. General Shelby and his staff dined sumptuously on the ham, never asking

any questions. Dr. John Moffett Dunn, was the surgeon in Shelby's Army. After the

war, on April 16, 1866, Dr. Dunn settled in Richmond and became one of Little River

County's best loved doctors. He was the son of a prominent Virginia family. His

mother, Mrs. Catherine Smythe (Smith), was of the family who contributed liberally

to the founding of Henry and Emory College of Virginia.


Dr. Dunn Came home from the war with only his horse and surgical

instruments. He borrowed money to purchase medicines. Upon becoming able, he

purchased new instruments and presented the old ones, used in the Civil War, to

Henry Walls, who prized them as long as he lived. For about fifty years, Dr. Dunn

lived and practiced medicine in Richmond.


Dr. Edward Lynah Hamilton came to Richmond in 1857 and began the practice

of medicine. He enlisted as a surgeon in General Tappans Brigade under General

Churchill, early in the Civil War. After the close of the war, he came back to

Richmond. In the eastern end of the county, he and Dr. Dunn were for many years

the only doctors. Both were highly skilled for the day, as they had their training in

medical college of which both were graduates. They were gentlemen of the old school

and preferred remaining where the need was greatest. Their practice covered much

territory. The weather was never too cold nor stormy, nor the distance too great, for

these two men to hasten to suffering humanity. They never refused their services

even though they knew they would never be recompensed. When there was much

sickness and the need great, Dr. Hamilton would look after Dr. Dunn's patients in the

direction he was going and vice versa. Dr. Hamilton passed away in 1899 and Dr.

Dunn in 1914. Both are buried in the old Richmond Cemetery, where lie many other

Confederate soldiers. Richmond loves the memory of both these grand old gentlemen

- friends to all, as well as physicians Dr. Bowman and Dr. Montue were physicians

here in the early years. Dr. Hamilton was followed by Dr. Vaughn and he passed away

a few years ago after long years of practice here. Dr. George M. Eckel followed Dr.

Dunn, but remained only a few years. Dr. Butler came here soon after the war but due

to the loss of his right arm in the war, ceased the practice of medicine.


In 1876, J. W. Carolan installed the steam machinery for grinding corn, ginning

cotton and sawing lumber. The first day the group gathered around to see their

machine work, Mr. Carolan installed the first molasses mill here also. Andrew

Hemphill had a water mill which ground wheat and corn. These inventions were a

great help to Richmond in the earlier days when there was so much sorrow and



A. J. Mimms, the father of Dr. Edwin Mimms, was a valuable citizen in

Richmond. He and his good wife were cultured and refined, the very salt of the earth.

He was in merchandising business here many years and was a friend to everyone. He

served as Sunday School Superintendent a great many years and his wife taught in the

Sunday School. Other early teachers were: M.P McCrary, Judge L. J. Joyner, Mrs. J. M.

Dunn, Mrs. J. W. Carolan, etc. Judge Joyner, T. B. Cook, W. W. Gardner, and M. W.

Lock served many years each as Sunday School Superintendent and Chairmen of the

Official Board of the Methodist Church.


The one newspaper, published in Richmond, was the Little River Pilot by M. L.

Yateman in 1880. Later it was sold to W. F. Joyner and J. C. Dellinger(?). In 1886 it was

sold to Mr. J. F. James who was helped by Dr. J. T. Butler. The Little River News was

started in 1886. The editor was N. J. Cook and the assistant editor was J. A. Miller.

This paper had a subscription of several thousand people and was a great help in

furthering the Democrats in Little River County. Later, the Pilot was sold to James

Cook, who moved it to Wilton where it soon ceased publication. Mr. Joyner

continued publishing the News until his health failed. Eventually, the paper was sold

to R. P. West of Ashdown.


The Masonic Lodge that was in the first church built in Richmond and was

given the name Red River Lodge No. 174, A.F. and A.M. Richmond Lodge. Some of

the early active members were M.P. McCrary, M. A. Locke, Dr. E. L. Hamilton, W.S.C.

Gardner, Jacob Willard, John Hawkins, N.C. McCrary and D.B. Bush.


The Court House was moved to Richmond from Rocky Comfort in 1880 and

the first term of court was held in the new Court House January, 1881. Judge H.B.

Stuart, and Rufus D. Hearn, prosecuting attorney, etc. Richmond members of the bar

residing here were: John Cain Head and Hindman C. Head, W. S. Curran, Littleton J.

Joyner and W. F. Joyner, and F. H. Taylor. Richmond, without any aid from the

county, built a nice court house before the election for removal of the court house.

Another Court House was built when the other burned - it was at the expense of

Richmond, but not an election was held before Foreman came in the night and stole

the records. This was Richmond's last county seat days. During the years, two

Negroes were hanged in a grove near Jeff Davis' store, one for raping a white woman,

the other for murder. A desperado, Cleasly(?) Britt and his gang committed many

crimes, burglaries, murders, etc. He was a native of this county. Finally, he and his

gang were arrested for robbing and murdering a Negro man. The jail that stood near

the gin was considered not sufficient to safeguard the keeping of these prisoners. Ed

Mullens of Foreman, a member of the mob, was killed. Some were caught and

sentenced. A Mr. Britt was one. He left and was never seen again until in the late

hours of the night he entered the room of a very sick man and was standing at the foot

of the bed, before those watching knew Britt was there. Not many weeks later, his

body was found in the weeds in a high state of decay. He had been shot to death.


S.S.P. Mills built a hotel and stable east of the Court House in the late seventies.

The hotel was called the "Grand Central" and had a large ballroom. After two or

three years he sold it to A. J. Mimms. One week before the Court House was burned, it

burned too. It was later rebuilt and became the center for drummers and traveling

men all over their territory. It was well kept and there were excellent meals served.

Richmond had a bank, two drugstores, eight stores, a hotel, two gins, two gristmills, a

saw mill, pastors and best schools in the county, Churches, five law officials, two

blacksmith shops, Court House and jail.


But let us go back to carpetbagger days. These were far from happy days in

Richmond. Dan Griffith, an illiterate Negro was Justice of the Peace, and for the least

provocation, would fine lawyers one dollar for contempt of court--dismiss the Court

and go across the street and buy all the liquor that the dollar would buy.


John Johnson, a Negro Tax Assessor, employed a white man as his deputy to

assess tax. And the Militia: The only family here who was not robbed by this outfit,

left home, turned everything over to a Negro who had been a slave in the family and

told her to claim everything as her own. She did and nothing was bothered. Ends of

corn cribs were knocked out and all old corn taken, chickens and turkeys shot down in

the yards, livestock stolen and everything that was not hidden. My father was told to

pen his hogs in the woods at night and they would not be molested. He had no faith

in this, but tried it, only to have the man who made the suggestion, lead the party who

shot the hogs, dragged them through the yard about daybreak. They hid the silver in

the woods in tight boxes, marking the places. One lady hid hers, and could hardly find

it later. As to slavery, I cannot tell much, because I made my appearance later. I do

know of Negroes who were slaves that absolutely refused to leave their families who

owned them. This was true in my childhood home. Mammy, Peggy and her husband

were given to my grandmother the day she was married, by her father. Uncle Ben

died, but Mammy and Peggy assisted my grandmother with her eleven children and

was so devoted to the family she would never leave. Upon the death of my

grandmother, Mammy and Peggy came over to our house and stayed until Mammy

died at the age of 103 years.


The first postmaster in Richmond was C. Calhoun Head. The carrier was an old

Union soldier with one peg leg. Mr. McHugh wore an old blue army overcoat and at

first made two trips a week. He went all over the county, to Washington, Texarkana

and several other places. The place was named for a Mr. Richmond, who became ill

and died here while enroute elsewhere. He is buried just inside Campbell's field near



Much more could be written of the glory of Old Richmond's citizens, who were

a people full of vision, patriotism, and courage. Some day I hope to do justice to my

old home town and its' history. Much more can be written-much has been omitted.