White Oak Mountain is a part of northwestern corner of Van Buren County and southeastern corner of Pope County, Arkansas. The distance is about seventeen miles north of Hector, Arkansas.
Forrest covers most all the mountain, white oak being the predominant timber. Rocks of all sizes are to be found scattered all over. Caverns are plentiful, one in particular was named "Rock House" by neighborhood boys who made a playhouse in the cavern (year 1898).
This writer does not know exactly the time the first settlers were there, but knows that relatives moved to the mountain by 1888 for health reasons from the sickly Carden Bottom of Yell County, Arkansas.
The settlers went for different reasons, some to homestead land, some for health, some looking for a better thing than they had found previously and a few fugitives from the law thinking it to be a real hide out. It usually was if the person got located in a cabin tucked away in a hollow at the end of an impassable road.
In 1898 the main road that lead to White Oak Mountain was rocky and steep in places. The road let by Appleton over the Stobuck Mountain, across Brock Creek at the old Ford place near where the old water mill once stood, then by Sang (Beaver farm) on by an old school building made of split log and hand hewed logs for benches (known as Knowledge Box), then on up another hill which led to the Berry Bagwell farm later known as Billie and Mazzie Campbell farm. This was White Oak Mountain, but not exactly the top as the Wash Phillips farm was on past on a higher ridge.
Sawmills were in use by 1920. Henry Campbell had a permanent mill site near his home. A shed was built over the mill so othat the operation of sawing could go on in all kinds of weather.
The year some families homesteaded or acquired their farms:
Wash Phillips bought the Moss farm in 1888.
Edward Person bought a farm in 1888 from Mr. Rainwater.
Berry Bagwell bought a farm in 1890's.
D. Laird bought a farm before 1898.
Robert Willcutt homesteaded a farm in 1908.
Billie Campbell homesteaded a farm before 1898.
John Person homesteaded a farm in 1914.
Coles Armistead homesteaded a farm in 1914.
Willis Campbell settled on mountain before 1910.(1907 Haskins Farm.
Widow Gash vacated her farm before 1898.
Some other residents there by 1900 were:
Jim Roberts - 1890
Harve and Alford Bruce
Mr. Longcryer ran the water mill at Brock Creek, and left before 1898.
My father, John Person, and a neighbor, Henry Campbell, came to the aid of every White Oak Mountain neighbor in their time of grief and need in the loss of a loved one by making and trimming a casket for their burial. There was never a charge for their service.
In 1898 the schools on White Oak Mountain were held at New Hope and Snowlick in Pope County in a brush arber on Costly farm (near Edd Person farm) in Van Buren County. The brush arber was used in summer time for a three months term. The other schools had six months out of a year.
John Hardin taught the winter term at New Hope school (1898). Some of the scholars were Henry, Bill and Jess Phillips, Rueben and John Person, Susie and Horace Picklesimmer, Laura Kilpatrick (called Quail), Vida Laird, Walter Cooper, Mary, Grover, Laura and Henry Campbell. Adam Austin rode a horse to school that brought him several miles from his home hear where the Austin school house later stood.
Walter Cooper was 16 years of age and had great respect for his teacher John Hardin (b 1872-d 1902). John died at the age of 30 and his body rests in the New Hope Cemetery.
The summer 1898 pupils attending the brush arber were Annie, Maude, Eugene and Oscar Lawless, a Costly boy, Reuben and John Person, and Walter Cooper. Others who have past from memory. The teacher was Burley Bruce who lived near Dabney.
This writers family lived in Van Buren County but the parents preferred to send their children (James, Lola, Orra and Clarence Person) to the new Hope school and payed a tuition fee for each child.
Some of the teachers at New Hope were Wylie Henry, John Burnett, Johnson Horn, Will McGhee, Cora Tate and Clarence Osborn. The teachers at Austin were Price Campbell, Leila Dishman, Orra Person, Elsie Skinner taught at Snowlick.
Before and during 1898 the White Oak Mountain was well inhabited. Nancy Cooper, a widow, with three children rented out the family bottom farm in 1898 and moved to the Berry Bagwell farm on the mountain with son Walter and foster son Lee, while her son George drove cattle to Oklahoma. She chose the place because of health reasons and she knew several neighbors who had lived near her in Old Neely.
Some families that are remembered as neighbors:
McElroy family - Rostus, Mattie (Hallum).
1890 - Jim Roberts family -John, Richmond, Callie, Eller.
Picklesimmer family - Susie, Horace and Floyd.
Aurelius Davis family.
Lit Hatley family and John Hatley family.
Williams family - Orlean, Lou, Tom
Wash and Martha Phillips -Henry, Bill, Jesse, James Frank and Hallie.
Billie and Mazzie Campbell - Mary, Laura, Grover, Henry and Ben.
Berry Bagwell - Elbert, Georgie, Will and Dora.
Harve Bruce - Liddie, Jane, Mary, Florence, Burley and Grover.
Edd Person and Jennie - Rube, John, Hattie, Adelaide, Eathel and Herbert.
Hardie Lipps bachelor died 1895, buried in New Hope Cemetery.
Costly family - several children.
Dr. Laird family - Vida.
John Hardin and sister.
Laura Kilpatrick and mother.
Henry Lawless family - Maude, Annie, Eugene and Oscar.
Adam Austin and his parents.
Walter Cooper played with the Phillips and Person brothers, they roamed around in the neighborhood sometimes staling watermelons from a neighbors patch and carrying them to the "saw mill" swimming hole and throwing them from the top of bluff. The melons burst when they hit the water.
The Okay Post Office was kept at the Wash Phillips home in 1898. Mrs. Martha Phillips was Post Mistress. In 1914 the post office was a few miles beyond the Phillips old home place and Laura Kilpatrick was the Post Mistress and kept the post office in her home which formally had been the Aurelius Davis home. Laura and her widowed mother lived alone. One end of the front porch was boxed up to house post office in. There were no windows in the room. A customer coming on business waited on the porch while Laura went inside, closed the door behind her and tended to business.
1914 was the first year birth records were recorded in Arkansas. Laura was appointed to send in the births that occurred on the mountain. On July 12th she reported the birth of Orra Adelaide Person.
Mrs. Tate and her family later moved to the mountain and lived near the New Hope school house. She kept the Okay Post Office in her home, also had groceries to sell.
George Napier at one time had the post office at his store at the old Laird home. George ran a grist mill at his home. Saturday was grinding day and the neighbors came to mill on that day. Some had to wait quite awhile for their turn for corn to be ground. A toll was charged and taken out of the ground meal.
Some other merchants who operated stores were Mr. Sutton in 1898 at Diamond. Dick Pack and Johnson Horn were there later. Their home and store building joined.
W.F. "Big Billie" Campbell (b 1859 - d 1917) and wife Mazzie Wright Campbell (b 1861 - d 1926) with their family were living on the mountain in 1898. Their home was on the hill north of the Berry Bagwell farm. When Mr. Bagwell left the mountain he sold to the Campbell family. The family was of fine cloth and a welcome to the neighbors was extended as the latch string hung on the outside of their door.
(This is only a small part of the material of Mrs. Cooper. There are many more names and dates told by her....mostly from 1898 - 1930's.)