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CHARLEY AND MELLIE SMITH
Submitted by: Shane & Sandra Rice (Shaneyrice@wmconnect.com)
My mother; Verna Belle Hurst was raised by Charley and Mellie Smith after the age three when her mother Vernice Smith Hurst died of a miscarriage. These stories were told to her by her grandparents or took place during her childhood.
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Charley Vanburen Smith was born in Advance, AR in 1895. His mother passed away when he was only eleven years old. Charley's daddy George Smith had little to do with him or his sister Daisy after their mother's death, spending his time in Hot Springs at the spas. He is buried at "Burnt School House cemetery. Charley was not a big man but what he lacked in size; he made up for in determination. He got his first real job as a water boy on the railroad working for a man named "Mr. Toothacher." He later sold venison and cut firewood for the steam boats on White River.
Charley met my Great Grand mother in her daddy's' store in Big Flat, AR when she was sixteen, then again at a church function that night he asked "if he could see her home." Her Name was Mellie Forrest Wooton.
Charley got a chance to help put in a crop down on spring creek and that allowed him to see Mellie from time to time. He later proposed that they marry upon his return from a five year journey into the Oklahoma Territory to earn money for a farm. He and a good friend Odus Rose,rode their horses to Oklahoma, Charley returned as promised and they were married. They bought a farm over on push mountain that belonged to a family named Woodcock who's' infant had died and its mother wouldn't bury it so they had kept it in the attic. Grandma didn't like it but they moved there anyway. Grandma had two horses, a feather bed, pillows, quilts and a couple of cattle. Grandpa had enough to purchase a wagon and team as well as their' farm. It was there. Clovie was born. They had a hired hand and friend there named Winn.
John Wesley Wooton, Mellies' father later sold his store in Big Flat, AR. and bought a farm over on crooked creek in Marion county. The Donald Hudson family, who are descendents, now own part of this farm. This prompted Charley and Mellie to sell their farm and they purchased a farm also on crooked creek.
Two of Mellie' brothers Elmer and Harvey left the state . Her other brothers were Edward Wooton,Thomas Wooton who had some fingers cut off by Mellie as children. Georgie Wooton and Walter Wooton moved to Flippin as well. Walter operated a dry goods store for years. Walters house was near where Wal-Mart sets now.Another brother Harrison Wooton who served in WW1 and wife Tolley owned the Commercial Hotel at Cotter Mellie had one sister "Ollie Burch" who also lived in Marion County .
Now a family that had been stricken with "Scarlet Fever" occupied the house that Charley and Mellie moved into, it was later learned and Clovie later contracted the disease and died at two years of age. Charley and Mellie decided to return to Big Flat for the burial and traveled two days staying overnight on the way. A family they didn't even know took them in, and they stayed up with them all night out of respect, which is how people did things in those days. They had two sons Forrest and Carl and one daughtor Vernice after Clovie died.
They were named farm family of the year in either 1935 or 1936.
Charlie had one brother named Oliver Smith who was killed. He was shot in the back of the head after arguing with a man named Joe Ligh Martin. Charley had to borrow money to hire a lawyer to prosecute his brothers' murderer, and Martin served one year. Upon release he returned and was ambushed and killed as he crossed the river at Norfork by Oliver's sixteen-year-old son, James, who was told to leave the state and never come back. Verna Belle remembered Mellies' sister "Olley Burch" who lived across crooked creek had become ill and they rode their horse "Ribbon" in the dark over to check on her. The sparks flew from the horses' hooves as they made their way down to the edge of Crooked Creek. Mellie dismounted and got a long stick to check the depth of the creek, which was up due to recent rains. Mellie got back up in the saddle with her small granddaughter in front, she patted "Ribbon" on the neck coaxing her into the swollen stream. Verna Belle remembers the horses' shoulders moving and the sense of gliding as she swam, and Mellie told her "She's swimming now" Ollie passed away that night.
To supplement their income Charley worked the zinc mines at Rush ,AR where he hauled ore with his four span of mules. He also cut cedar logs and rafted them down Buffalo River to White River then on down to Cartney and he worked the wheat harvest in North Dakota during World War 11. Charley also owned and operated a gristmill and sawmill at Rea Valley, AR along with a small store and they ran the post office as well from 1926 to 1929
They later moved to Flippin on land inherited from Mellies father and mother. Her mother Nancey Catherine had died after herding cattle and eating a large amount of plumbs to quench her thirst she had a stroke Her Father had earlier got in poor health and bought land and moved to Flippin and then passed away right after Clovie died.
Charley had a new 1938 Ford pickup he loaned to his son Forrest who drove it over to Big Flat and wrecked it so Charley walked all the way to Big Flat
To sell it for salvage. He later bought a log truck in 1940 that burned but he managed to get it running and used it anyway. Charley spoke highly of a man named Hal Burns that would make him a business loan on his word also a man named Seawright would also loan him money when he needed it.
Then the "Great Depression" Charley told about the bank closing when they got the Kansas City Star and how the people were all there that morning crying, he lost $1200 and there was nothing he could do but cry along with the rest of them. That was his operating money for his farm and he already owed a federal loan that had to be paid back. Charley decided to send a train carload of cattle to St, Louis and they sold for so little it didn't even pay the freight charges.
It was then Charley tried selling fresh beef in Cotter, AR staying all day long then bringing what was left home to stay up all night canning so none would go to waste. Next Charley formed a partnership with his sister Viney Isom who lived over on Buffalo River to make and sell moonshine.
Charley would haul the ingredients by wagon and return to Flippin with kegs of "White Lightning" that he hid behind a false wall in his cellar. He would siphon off a jar or two when you needed it. My mother remembers the "Revenuers" coming to their house driving big black cars wearing dark suits and packing guns. They quizzed her about the comings and goings around their house and asked, " did she see any bottles"? She was three or four years old.
Now Viney had three boys who fought like cats and dogs. One time Charley arrived to pick up a load of shine and they were in a big fight. He heard Viney call out from her hiding place under the bed "will you fetch me my snuff?" Sometime later one of her boys was found drowned in a barrel of sour mash. His killer never was found but rumor was that his own brother killed him.
Charley started to drink and soon developed a reputation for being quite ornery. He carried an old double barrel shotgun, the kind that had hammers on the outside. He would get pretty wild if you crossed him or happened to get in the way of his deer stand. He would wave that old shotgun all around to show how he could shoot it since he only had one hand. If you didn't move on Charley would "accidentally" let it go off.
It was told that Charley was so mean he would wrestle a buzz saw and that was how he cut his hand off. Charley sawed the lumber for the first Christian Church there in Flippin where he attended until they refused to pass him the "communion". Charley had voiced beliefs about the piano they had moved in and couldn't believe that Edward his brother in-law didn't say anything.
Mellie and Verna Belle Hurst her granddaughter left Flippin for the apple harvest in Washington in 1945 where she had family. It was a long journey riding in the back of a truck for about a week. Mellies' son Carl Smith a long distance truck driver left California to join them and was killed in a car wreck on the way. Grandma and Verna Belle left Washington by bus and traveled to claim his body they returned by train .The trip took seven days upon their return to Flippin, AR story was Charley never drank after that.
Verna Belle remembers the time President Truman drove right by their house on the way to dedicate Bull Shoals Dam and she worked for her aunt "Tolley" in cotter at the Commercial Hotel before the roundhouse was closed.
Charley died in 1967 and Mellie lived another ten years or so. When Charley died grandma said she was looking forward to voting how she wanted in the election because Charley had always insisted she vote, as he wanted. They are buried in Hill Top Cemetery there in Flippin and I stop by there from time to time to pay my respects and remember the tales of long ago. The giant sycamore tree still stands in their front yard an ageless reminder of days gone forever.
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Linda Haas Davenport