Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, October 24, 1999
Denmark is the name of a community located between Velvet Ridge and Pleasant Plains in what used to be Arkansas’ native hardwood forest. Gentle hills, farmland and thickets of trees still abide in the area, as well as the descendants of feisty folks such as can be found throughout the Stanley and Mason families.
J.E. Mason, who was born in Denmark and now lives in nearby Bald Knob, recalls some rowdy electioneering in the area, when local elections, especially those in nearby Velvet Ridge, were hotly contested between the two families. One such battle took place back in the late ‘50s and involved as least a half dozen Masons and Stanley's, in broad daylight.
"Some would probably scold me [for telling]," Mason says, grinning sheepishly. "The fight took place 100 feet from the dairy bar!" Mason has been Denmark’s constable for the past four years. He approaches his duties with an air of humor, mellowness and relaxation. These days, Denmark is a much quieter place.
Mason’s family owns two thirst-quenching artesian springs along the old highway to Denmark. People have been coming to get water from the oldest one, called Allred Spring, for at least 100 years. When the new highway was being built, Mason and others helped divert the path away from the spring and the historic Hays homestead, which stands nearby. Nowadays, the old road into Denmark is never crowded; tractor-trailer traffic rumbles by on nearby Arkansas 167.
"At one time, Denmark was an important stop along the way," says Emmett Powers, a history buff who teaches at Searcy’s Riverview High School. Powers commutes to work from Denmark every day, as he and his wife have restored a home there that has been in her family since before the Civil War.
"Both Confederate and Union soldiers camped at the Ransom place," Powers explains. (The Ransom family is known for producing generations of caring physicians.) "General McRae from White County went up into the hills during the Civil War," adds Powers, "around 1863, McRae would make a route from Grande Glaise creek – which connects to the White River at Old Glaise – and would roam around up in that area, foraging and hassling the Union troops, and no one could catch him."
Powers says that in the wagon train days, Denmark, a post stop, was the place where people came to buy groceries. He also described a huge cemetery, containing hundreds of graves, in Denmark’s forest.
Denmark formerly boasted of a hotel, cotton gin, post office and two or three grocery stores, says Leroy Throckmorton, owner of Throckmorton’s Feed and Seed, the last remaining business in town. He says that, as recently as the 1960s, there were stores in town.
"[Throckmorton’s Feed and Seed] has been here 25 years. I was born in Velvet Ridge and raised in Denmark," Throckmorton says, adding that the town was once known to be a stagecoach stop. He went to school through seventh grade or so at the schoolhouse in Denmark, and then took an hour-and-a-half bus ride to and from Bald Knob for the rest of his schooling. Denmark’s schoolhouse was also turned into an impromptu theatre during the summer months, when traveling movie shows would come to town, constituting an instant holiday.
"It was usually a serial show," recalls Throckmorton. "We watched Gene Autry, Roy Rogers; they always had a cartoon. My whole family went and had popcorn."
The old schoolhouse burned down; now, in its place on Arkansas 87, stands a Baptist church. Other small town schoolhouses have disappeared due to consolidation.
Geneva Hay, who still lives in the historic Hay home near Allred Spring, is 84 years old. Her picturesque, white frame home, complete with massive stone chimney, is reportedly the oldest home between Bald Knob and Batesville.
"My wife and daughter fix her food and take care of her every day so that she can stay in her home," explains Throckmorton. "We talk to her every day."
Denmark, whose surrounding forests contain sparkling springs, ancient graveyards and forgotten hiding places used by Confederate soldiers, is indeed a historic place. It is also a beautiful and friendly place.
"I always liked to sell," says Throckmorton of his Feed and Seed store. "Everybody that comes in is our neighbor – kind of like one big happy family."