Submitted by Vicky Dennis

A History of Greasy Valley & Bee Branch, Arkansas 72013


By Estella Johnson Clayton 1935


Why Greasy Valley was so named: before Van Buren County was formed and probably before Arkansas became a State, a man from either near Leslie or Harrison was hauling a hogshead of lard from Little Rock, via the old Little Rock road, a much traveled road in early days, in a wagon, when the Staves of the barrel came apart and the entire sixty-three gallons of lard were spilled in the Valley before he reached the mountain now called West of Hunter Mountain, Hence the name, Greasy Valley.


Many people, especially non-residents, wonder why Bee Branch has such a queer name. a short time previous, or during the Civil War, a post office was established on what is known in this section as “Nigger Hill,” near the bank of a stream that was and still is called Bee Branch. From all reports, handed down from the days of the early settlers, this Valley was noted for its many bees and fat bears. There seems to have been a large colony of Bees on this particular stream than anywhere else in this section. So being original people, they gave original names.


When the post office was moved from “Nigger Hill” to what is known locally as the Billy Lankford old place, near where Roscoe Summers now lives, it is still retained the name of Bee Branch. Just prior to 1879, the post office was moved from the Lankford old place to another log building in Crossroads, the original name of the present town of Bee Branch. It was located on the site where Noel Canady now operates a grocery store.


Jim Bolton was the first postmaster after the office was moved to Crossroads, and he was also the first and only merchant there. Following Mr. Bolton, a Mrs. Gifford from some Northern state was the next postmaster. Then came J.E. Scanlan, W.B. Payne, S.L. Collums, W.G. Gordon as acting postmaster, and in 1923, A.E. Scanlan became postmaster, who continues to distribute Uncle Sam’s mail.


People who live in the Valley before, during and immediately following the Civil War were Alfred Linn; the Farley’s; Billy Linn on the late P.L. Johnson place; the Douglas’s; Yelly Holderfield in a log house where Mrs. R.L. Jones now lives; Bill Lankford; Tom Rays, on the present site of the South Side School; Alonzo Brown; James Cossey, the grandfather of our Henry & Isaac Cossey; the Hardins; the Bakers; the Haney’s; the Gibson’s; a sister of the “Uncle Ikey” Hunter who settled near Choctaw in 1834; and Andrew Davis.


“Uncle Andy” was the father of the late Billy, Clint and Brad Davis. Many are the stories that are told of his many kindnesses and good deeds. It has been said that through his efforts the old people, women and children, were clothed and kept from starving during the Civil War. As I listened to these stories retold, I think of the words of the poem: “Let me live in my house by the side of the road and be a friend to man.! I think the poet, Sam Walter Foss, must have known such a man.

All of the dwellings, churches and schools in those olden times were built of hewn logs. They were of the one-room type; however, some of them had lean-tos or side rooms; and sometimes, you would find one with a porch or piazza. The more pretentious were double houses: two large rooms with a hall between and porch or piazza in front.


In the double houses, both rooms had fire-places; one was used for a kitchen and dining room where the cooking was done in the open fireplace. An iron rod or crane was built in each chimney for the iron kettle or pot to hang over the fire. A skillet and lid, with coals underneath and a top, was used for baking and frying.


In the kitchen were also found the spinning wheel and loom. There the cotton (hand-seeded until the “treadmill gin” came in use) and wool were carded into “bats” ready to be spun into thread. The warp was bought in bales or hanks for weaving cloth; but sewing thread and the other to go with warp were spun at home. Dyes were made home from sumac, walnut hulls and bark of certain trees, and were set with alum or copperas. Dried herbs for medicine and dried fruit and vegetables for the table were also stored in this room.


The other room was spoken of “as the big house.” In it were the beds. Trundle beds were used especially for the children to sleep on, and in the day-time were pushed under four posters, which had curtains to the side and foot that reached to the floor. The bureau and chest (everybody had a chest whether or not they had a bureau) were in this room.


Soon after the Civil War came an exodus from Illinois and Kansas. Of these people, Henry Vest and Nathaniel Green remained long enough to make lasting improvements on their homesteads, and to help in building churches and schools. Then from Tennessee came the Hardins, French, Rowes, Edwards, Lesleys, Warbrittons and Coles. The Rogers came from Georgia and “Uncle Joe” Patterson, father of our J.R. Patterson, and J.E. Rhea came from Alabama.


Between the fifties and sixties, another wagon of pioneers made its appearance that was not destined to reach its journey’s end, as the story goes. The father and mother became ill and were cared for by “Uncle Andy” Davis; but death claimed both parents, and they left with this kindly man and his good wife a little boy, who is now family known as “Uncle Newt” Collums. He and his family have been valuable assets to the Greasy Valley community.


Early in the winter of 1873, four wagons with two yokes of oxen each, left Newburg, Mississippi. They first stopped in Izard County. But later came here. In this wagon train were the Spires and Alex Brown, Rev., W.A. Hutto, his brothers Anderson, W.H. Hutto and wife and Pink.


About 1880 came another pioneer with a “slatted” chicken or peddling wagon that was drawn by two horses, late of Little Rock. The owner and driver of this equipage was none other than J.E. Scanlan.


The post office at this time had been moved from its first location at Crossroads to a new log building where the post office is now located. J.E. Scanlan put up the second store in Bee Branch. He had a few bolts of cloth, some buttons, thread and other notions. In 1881, Mr. Scanlan and Miss Maggie Cuday of Cleveland, Ohio, met in Little Rock, married there, and came back to Bee Branch in their wagon. It was at about this time that a part of his residents was built, the first frame building in Bee Branch. These good people have been a valuable asset to the Valley.


Then came the Graddy’s the Fulk’s and the Brittain’s who settled in the Colony community east of Morganton. The first cotton gin was erected on the bank of Scroggin Creek north of the present bridge, on land now owned by Mrs. Torea Warbritton. It had a tread wheel and oxen furnished the motive power.


The cotton lint was pressed into bales by means of big levers made of heavy timbers. The cotton press was some distance from the other machinery and the lint was carried by hand. By beginning early, they could gin one bale of cotton a day. A Mr. Dempsey next operated the gin, and Mr. Rolla returned to Quitman where he erected a flour mill.


One June 8, 1882, a flood came, washing away all the fences along Scroggin Creek, also the cotton gin and a log house nearby. The house occupied by a family by the name of Reddlesuger, who kept from drowning by knocking a hole in the top of the house and climbing on the roof. The gin was the run by Hugh and Worth Rogers.


The next tread wheel gin was operated on the site of the present residence of W.G. Gordan and was operated by the Rogers boys. Later

J.E. Scanlan became owner and installed more modern machinery which, he located on the lot north of the post office. Mr. Scralan operated the gin until the tornado destroyed it on April 29, 1909.


The gin site was then moved to the lot now owned by L.M. Barker. Dr. S.M. Cole and his brother, Berry became owners and operators. Later, Newman Wilkes and T.U. Johnson purchased the gin. Johnson, who has been dead these twenty years and still missed in this vicinity, installed new machinery. A Mr. Crowell next became owner, and later Dave Smith, who was fatally, injured working at the gin in 1918. The machinery was then sold and moved away; and until W.J. Hutchison erected the South Side gin in 1929, our people were without a cotton gin at Bee Branch.


The Primitive Baptist Church at old Salem seems to have been the first church built in Greasy Valley. Two buildings have been erected there, both on practically the same spot. In 1873, “Parson” W.A. Hutto organized a Missionary Baptist Church and the building was located on what is now a part of the T.U. Johnson Estate. Rev., Hutto was pastor of the church as long as he lived. He organized the first church at Damascus and Morganton and is said to have been a very able preacher.


A few years after the first church was erected, the location was moved to where the present Bee Branch Baptist Church now stands and a frame building was put up. It was later replaced by the present unfinished building which was started in 1927. Both former church buildings were used for school purposes until about 1890 when the Bee Branch Seminary was built. It was said to be the most expensive and finest building in the county at the time, with the exception of the old court house at Clinton which was destroyed in 1934.


The finest building for school alone was built at Steele’s Chapel. One fourth mile east of the home of Allison Duncan. The old building was destroyed by fire last year. The new building at the place was erected several years ago when T.J. Cowan was superintendent of schools. It is now a ward school of South Side District.  


The old Bee Branch Seminary on College Street began to learn after an entertainment when an unusually large crowd was present; and for many years before it was razed, it was considered unsafe. About fifty-two years ago, a school house was built two miles west of the present Sulphur Springs church east of Morganton, near a spring of Sulphur spring.


After the first building was burned, the next building was built at the present site and was used for a church and a school several years before South Side was built.


When the first Missionary Baptist decided to change the location of their church and school, they sold the old building to the Methodists who moved it near the old Red Cross house, and it is called the Hopewell Church. Later, the Steele’s Hopewell Church was erected.


Later, schools were built at Pine Mountain, Pine Grove, Sand Springs, Mt. Zion, Piney Grove, Harmony, East Mountain, Morganton and Damascus. But for years after the Seminary was built, it was the leading school of the Valley. In 1929, while Robert Taylor was superintendent, then Pine Mountain, Bee Branch and Sulphur Springs schools were consolidated. Later, Damascus and Steele’s Chapel schools were already consolidated with Pine Grove; and Red Cross came into the consolidation. Morganton joined the group for a while and then withdrew.


In early days, people from the northern counties of Arkansas drove turkey, hogs and cattle to Little Rock, Searcy and Quitman, which were trading centers. People here carried their surplus to three points; and that is why the old Little Rock road was used so much, and Greasy Valley became a regular camping site.


Old people are of pure Anglo-Saxon race, are law-abiding and interested in schools and churches. Their offense against the law have always been few and of minor character. In olden times, their yards were always enclosed by rail fences and were swept with brush brooms. The pioneers went to church at Old Salem, Hopewell and Mt. Mariah, the name of the first and second Bee Branch churches, in Ox wagons and on foot. When they went on foot, they carried their shoes in their hands until within a short distance of the church.


In those days, everybody went to church. Meals were prepared beforehand; and they sang, prayed, testified and shouted. They had real protracted meetings in those days. Our revival between 1880 and 1885 is still green in the memory of our older people. A Baptist preacher by the name of Poubh rode horseback from Tennessee to help the local preacher, Sowby, who came on horseback from Bradley County.


After Rev., Hutto passed on (he now sleeps on the spot where he labored so zealously), the next preacher was the father of our Charley and Wesley Woods. He was followed by Rev., Russell and Uncle Monroe McGee. Other ministers have done much for the cause in this section. Preachers were not paid any certain sum of money. Often, they were given corn, wheat, potatoes and any kind of fruit and vegetables, homemade quilts, cloths and cocks. One preacher received so many pairs of socks that thereafter he was called “Socks” Robins instead of Parson.


The Church finally became discouraged and for several years no work was carried on. It was reorganized in 1923 under the leadership of Rev., E.E. Simmons of Conway.


The early doctors were; Radcliffe, Stone, Guthrie, who later moved to Clinton, W.M. Allison now in his 95th year and who lives in Conway, A.J. Brittain, the late S.M. Cole and the later Henry Hutto and now we have Drs. W.J. and T.B. Hutto.


In the early days, there were implements only as they were made by hand. Wheat was thrashed by frail, or beaten or tramped out, then winnowed through a hopper. Then came the “groundhog” thrasher, in appearance, it was similar and much larger than the present day kitchen range.


The social side of the pioneer days were literary societies held in evenings, formal dinners, candy pulling and candy breakings, quiltings, rail-maulings, log-rollings, house-raisings and revival meetings. Infer dinners were given after weddings, followed by a charivari.


People of this community nearing or past eighty years are: Mrs. Sarah Baker, Mrs. S.K. Ward, “Aunt Addie” Rowe, “Uncle Newt” Collums, and “Uncle Dave” Jennings. Those nearing and past threescore and ten years are J.E. Scanlan, a native of Ireland, Mrs. William N. Baker and Mr. and Mrs. J.R. Patterson.


As I review the past, their joys and sorrows, their triumphs and defeats, their mistakes and their well-doings, I am indeed proud of them. After all, isn’t their sturdy, honest character the greatest wealth they could hand down to their posterity?


I wish to acknowledge my indebtedness for facts outlined above to J.R. Patterson, Dr. W.J. Hutto, Mrs. T.U. Johnson and Mrs. H.F. Fleming.

Bee Branch, Van Buren County, Arkansas 72013

Established on November 24, 1860

Discontinued on June 22, 1866

Reestablished on August 08, 1866


Postmasters                        Appointment Dates Through

                                   September 30, 1971


William D. Neal                    November 24, 1860

William Johnson                    August 08, 1866

William Lankford                   December 20, 1869

James M. Holderfield               November 06, 1871

Rufus B. Edwards                   January 26, 1875

Jonathan E. Rhea                   February 25, 1878

Rufus B. Edwards                   March 03, 1879

Nathaniel Greer                    April 07, 1879

Jeremiah E. Scanlan                February 09, 1880

William M. French                  May 16, 1889

William A. Gifford                 September 07, 1893

Mary L. Gifford                    May 15, 1896

William B. Payne                   October 20, 1897

Samuel L Collums                   June 13, 1914

William G. Gordon                  August 9, 1914

Arthur E. Scanlan                  March 22, 1924

Mrs. Myrtle Scanlan                February 24, 1936 (assumed charge)

                                   February 28, 1936 (acting)

Mrs. Eula Gardner                  January 16, 1937 (confirmed)

                                   February 24, 1937 (assumed charge)

Steve G. Spencer   Not sure of date, but was next appointed postmaster.

Roger D. Robertson                 Assumed O.I.C. November 25, 1975

William E. Roller                  January 15, 1977 





Estelle Johnson Clayton and the Johnson Family


The writer of this grief “History of Greasy Valley and Bee Branch” was Mrs. Estella Johnson Clayton, life long resident of the Bee Branch community. Mrs. Clayton was the sixth or middle child of eleven born to Thomas U. and Lou Rogers Johnson, of whom eight were born before 1900. T.U. Johnson was a farmer; and at one time was a co-owner of the cotton gin in Bee Branch, with Newman Wilkes, according to Mrs. Clayton’s research.


Following are listed the children of the Thomas U. Johnson family, and their spouses:


Eva Johnson and Tom Daves

Emma and Pearl Woodard

Joe and Dovie Warbritton

Hary and Nettie Rowe

Jane and Clyde Joyner

Estelle and Hershel Clayton

Andrew and Lily Ray

Maggie and Clifford Joyner

Alma (“Dollie”) and Lester Fain

Scott (died at age 5 years)

Nica and Bill Evans


For more than one hundred years, the original homestead of the Thomas U. Johnson family has remained in the hands of the same family. It is situated about midway between Bee Branch and the South Side School, at the top of the hill on the west side of U.S. Highway 65, where old Tom’s grandson, Claud Johnson lives in 1989.