Marcella, formerly known as Hess Town, offers Southern solitude
Written by: Tracy L. Crain
Arkansas Democrat Gazette
Sunday, August 6, 2000

Marcella is just the type of Southern rural community folks can appreciate. The land is fertile and provides plenty of acreage for farming or cattle raising. There is also an abundant amount of trout just waiting to be caught alongside the banks of the nearby White River.

Two churches, a post office and a pottery shop combine to create area commerce for this quaint country community that sits on the edge of the southern tip of the Ozark Plateau, nestled quietly between Mountain View and Batesville on Arkansas 16.

It’s here that the town’s 150 residents enjoy the solitude of country living as well as convenient access to local tourist attractions in Stone County--such as Blanchard Springs Wild Cave Tours and the annual Mountain View Bean Festival.

Founded in the early 1800s, Marcella has a picturesque landscape. It’s composed of a few charming historical homes and buildings accented by miles of hardwood and pine tree forests in the distance.

Harry Martin, 81, is a native of Marcella. He knows quite a bit about the town’s history, various memories - such as town picnics, where a person could buy a hamburger for a nickel or take a wagon ride to the local Batesville barbershop to get a 50-cent haircut - are told with both Southern flavor and charm.

Martin, whose father was a teacher in Marcella, believes his hometown has changed dramatically throughout the years.

“There used to be two stores, three doctors, and a school in Marcella. I remember the doctor would charge $2 to deliver a baby and 50 cents to pull a bad tooth,” he said. “As far as teaching is concerned, it was a pretty good job to have back then and paid roughly $40 a month. The schools here were great and put a lot of emphasis on discipline. Children were taught to mind...”

Martin continued, “Children were admitted to school at the age of 6 and when they went to school, they carried their lunches in lard buckets and drank water from gourds. They don’t go to school here anymore, though.”

Residents of Marcella credit Tom Hess as being the community’s founding father. “He owned all the land in these parts,” Martin said. “He managed to buy it with the profits he made from his liquor still that was located off of Partee Road in Marcella. He also owned the only steamboat in town, which he used to ship his liquor to different places.”

Marcella, which was formerly named Hess Town, was prosperous in the early 1900s. There was both population increases and commerce expansion. “We’re not growing anymore, though. Our young folks keep moving away to find work,” he said.

Despite its lack of economic activity, the town does enjoy its share of tourists who drive through on their way to area attractions.

Martin lives in a house located between two of the historic church buildings in Marcella. Because of that, he gets a chance to meet a lot of them.

“People around here like to get married in small country churches, and they visit my house all the time asking if I will marry them. They mistake me for a pastor since I live by the churches,” he said. “I get a lot of ribbing about it from my neighbors.”

Standing outside in her pasture, across the street from Harry Martin’s house, Dana Partee, 56, a long time resident of Marcella, is running water for her two Brahman cows named Lucky and Shawnee.

She describes the town as peaceful and quiet. She enjoys living there. As a former postmaster and the daughter of a postmaster who served the town for 43 years, Partee knows just about everyone here.

“There’s not much excitement and there’s not much to do, but that’s the way I like it,” she said.

Clayton Brock, who runs the pottery and wrought iron shop at the edge of town, agrees. “I figure if I can throw a rock to the neighbor’s house, then it’s too close. There’s a lot of space out here and I appreciate that,” he said.

(This article has been recently revised for historical archiving and is an excerpt from Road Trips; a weekly feature of small towns in Arkansas, which was written by Tracy Crain and published by the Arkansas Democrat Gazette in 2000.)